Office of Equal Opportunity

Frequently Asked Questions

What does equal employment opportunity mean?

It means access to all available jobs and training, under equal terms and conditions, and with equal benefits and services, without actions, policies, or practices which discriminate among applicants or employees on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or religion. This includes quality in recruitment, hiring, layoff, discharge, recall, promotion, training, responsibility, wages, vacation, overtime, insurance, retirement and pension benefits.

What does affirmative action mean?

Affirmative Action means taking specific action (e.g., in recruitment, hiring, or training) which is designed and taken for the purpose of eliminating the present effects of past discrimination. One such result of past discrimination is the under-representation of racial and/or ethnic minorities, women, Vietnam Era Veterans, and people with disabilities in the workforce. In cases where certain groups protected by law are underrepresented in the workforce, affirmative action attempts to address the disparities through numerical goals and timetables.

Why Do We Need Affirmative Action?

The need for affirmative action exists because discrimination exists. Discrimination is the unequal treatment of a class of people. If the result of an action, policy or practice is unequal treatment of a particular class of people, then that action, policy, or practice is discriminatory. It may involve a single act, or it may involve a continuing policy or practice. The action may be intentional or unintentional; purpose or intent is irrelevant when the effect is to deny equal opportunity.

Targets of discrimination usually belong to categories of people who possess imperfect access to positions of equal power, prestige, and privileges in a society (synonym; subordinate). In addition, the target of discrimination is usually perceived as a minority group.

The real and/or perceived characteristics used to define a minority group are usually based on:


Revised: July 19, 2007