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  • Affirmative Action

    An affirmative action/equal opportunity statement might include the following:

    Equal employment opportunity and affirmative action programs are designed to break down barriers historically denying women and minorities equal access to the benefits of employment. The rights most commonly blocked relate to the following:

    The various laws governing equal employment opportunity make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age (40 and over), national origin, or disability.

    Both equal employment opportunity and affirmative action exist to ensure that employers take steps to eliminate barriers blocking equal access to employment. They were designed to rectify the lingering results of past employment discrimination. It is not illegal to discriminate against individuals who are not members of a protected class, although a good general rule, from the standpoint of claim avoidance and litigation prevention, is to avoid any discrimination against an individual based upon things that are beyond the individual's power to control.

    It may be permissible to exclude members of a protected class where a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) exists. A BFOQ is a requirement necessary and related to the performance of a job. For example, excluding men from being hired as attendants in a women's restroom is acceptable. Employers should remember that there is practically never a BFOQ for race (sole exception: hiring for certain roles in entertainment productions), and BFOQs with respect to other protected categories are rare. It is always up to an employer to prove the existence of a BFOQ.

    Though only certain employers are required to have a written affirmative action plan or equal employment opportunity statement, it is a good idea for all employers to have one or both. Employers who do not have a working knowledge of affirmative action and antidiscrimination laws risk being severely penalized.

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