In the US, there has been considerable debate about affirmative action (AA) in general, and preferential treatment for certain groups in particular. What often gets lost in the discussions of AA is that it can involve many other things. Its purpose is to encourage equal opportunity for everyone, and in the process increase the numbers of under-represented groups in the workplace at all levels. Although an AA plan is manditory for most organizations in the US, preferential treatment is not under most circumstances.

In this exercise we will investigate what the federal government means by AA and how it was originally invisioned to operate. First, read the section of your textbook on affirmative action, in chapter 6 to get some background. Next, go to the links page and find the Employment Statistics site. They have a copy of the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures 1978. This is a government document that has become the basis for legal employee selection in the US. Read the sections on AA. Answer the following questions.

1. What is the general philosophy and purpose behind affirmative action?

2. Why was this activity thought to be needed?

3. Is preferential treatment required according to this document?

4. What practices are recommended?

5. Under these rules, can an organization use a valid test or other selection device if it results in hiring some groups in greater proportions than others?


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Copyright Paul E. Spector, All rights reserved, November 16, 2011.