Affirmative Action in Hiring
Affrimative Action In Hiring
An Analysis of Affirmative Action in the Hiring Process
The human resources department of an organization/agency can be one of the most challenging to run in the organization. Decisions will constantly be made this department that will affect the character and composition of the company. Among those decisions is whether to implement an Affirmative Action Plan. Affirmative action was approved by the United States Supreme Court in 1978 in the case of the University of California Regents v. Bakke. Since then and throughout the years, it has remained the center of heated debates and discussions. While cases on affirmative action have come before the Supreme Court numerous times since the Bakke, the Supreme Court has ultimately failed to overturn its decision, and as such affirmative action remains legal on a national level. While this is true on a national level, many states such as California, Michigan, Nebraska, and Washington state have banned affirmative action (Kirkland 2010). Moreover, numerous states have placed it on recent ballots to vote on a ban. Still, regardless of the controversy surrounding affirmative action, when employers have implemented it in the hiring process, their original objectives have been accomplished. In several actual scenarios that are discussed in this report, affirmative action plans have increased diversity in terms of minorities and women. On the other hand, while it increases minority and women representation, it decreases the representation of other candidates who were also qualified for the job. This report discusses thoroughly the history of affirmative action and arguments for and against its implementation in the employment hiring process.
Affirmative action is defined as taking positive steps to increase the representation in areas of employment, education, and business in areas in which they have been traditionally excluded (Fullinwider).
Affirmative action has been one of the most controversial principles in our nation's history, and the controversy is still real and current with strong arguments existing on both sides. Much of the controversy and strong emotion surrounds using affirmative action in terms of offering preferential treatment to employment candidates on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity (Fullinwider, 2009), and many will argue that to favor a candidate based on increasing the representation of a particular race, gender, or ethnicity is not only unethical but unfair to more qualified candidates that are not in the race, gender, or ethnicity being promoted. This report will analyze affirmative action in terms of its legal history along with the benefits and burdens of implementing it in the hiring process.
Why Is Diversity Important in the Workplace?
According to the American Heritage College Dictionary diversity is defined as, "the quality or fact of being different; having variety or multiformity" (American Heritage, 1993). An environment that is diverse is one that embraces a variety of various cultures and ethnic backgrounds, different races, genders, and some would argue that age is a component of diversity. However, does a lack of diversity effect the efficient operation of the company? If it does not, as some will agree, then why is diversity important? One argument is that diversity promotes a suitable environment or culture for employees (Berman, Bowman, West, and Van Wart, 2006). Berman, Bowman, West, and Van Wart provide an example to illustrate this principle. Assume that an employee has a minor child. A department that insists on standard working hours, does not provide child care assistance, or subtly penalizes leaves of absences for family related reasons does not create a suitable environment for employee-parents. They may lose employee-parents or employee parents may decline to accept employment with this employer. An employer that promotes diversity will more likely avoid this problem by creating a suitable environment and culture for employee parents. A diverse employer will be more aware of the unique scenarios of employee-parents since it is likely to have more than one employee-parent on staff. Furthermore, the diverse employer may have employee-parents in positions of management and therefore the management staff, by being in a similar position, are more likely to have a sensitivity to the unique situations of employee-parents.
Another example of how affirmative action benefit's the workplace is that it results in a well rounded workforce. The benefits of a well rounded workforce are numerous -- one of the benefits is that it will assist the employer in avoiding discrimination complaints including those from white males (Berman, Bowman, West, and Van Wart, 2006). A complaint for discrimination may directly affect the operation of the company because of the resources involved to litigate the complaint. Even complaints that ultimately turn out to be without merit may involve the company expending resources for attorney's fees and other related costs. In addition, a complaint for discrimination will result in bad publicity for the company which can have adverse affects on the company's reputation.
Still, in spite of these two benefits related to promoting company diversity, many are not convinced of the validity of affirmative action. The position is that these justifications, especially the second one, detract from the integrity of the hiring process since the underlying intent in hiring an employee is not dependent on the employee's level of qualification and credentials for the position, but based on an attempt to avoid a discrimination lawsuit or avoid appearing unconcerned about diversity. Critics of affirmative action would argue that a company that when a company concentrates their recruiting and hiring process on factors other than choosing the best candidate for the position, that ultimately the benefits that the company gains will be canceled out because the best candidate for the position was not chosen.
The History of Affirmative Action
In the early 1970s the controversy regarding affirmative action escalated (Fullinwider, 2009). The purpose and goal of affirmative action was to alleviate institutional discrimination that had occurred in the public sector. The following examples will illustrate that even though racial and gender oppression was outlawed, discrimination in the hiring process remained a current and relevant issue.
For example, in July 1970, the federal district court enjoined the state of Alabama from continuing to discriminate against blacks in the hiring process of state troopers. The court found that in the 37-year history of the patrol, there had never been a black state trooper (Almanac of Policy, 1995). In 1979, women represented only 4% of the entry level officers in the San Francisco Police Department (Id). In 1975, a federal district court found that Local 28 of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association had discriminated against non-white workers in recruitment, training, and admission to the union (Id). Finally, prior to 1974 and because African-Americans had been traditionally excluded from work in the craft unions, only 5 of 273 skilled craft workers hired by Kaiser Aluminum Company were African-American (Id).
The Civil Rights Act of 1964
had resulted in courts being able to provide affirmative action as a remedy for employees against employers that violated the Act (Fullinwider, 2009). During this time federal courts were enforcing the Civil Right Act against discriminating companies, unions, and other institutions (Id). As courts continued to enforce affirmative action, the public became more and more resistant of it wondering if it was really accomplishing what it set out to accomplish, or whether the effects perpetrated reverse discrimination. One of the first Supreme Court cases to challenge affirmative action was the case of University of California Regents v. Bakke (1978).
In the Bakke case, the petitioner challenged the special admissions procedures of the Medical School of the University of California at Davis (Bakke, 1978). The program was designed to ensure the admission of a certain number of students from certain minority groups (Id). Since the program opened, there had been no special programs to ensure that minorities were fully represented in the program (Id). The program administrators created a program designed to increase the representation of "disadvantaged" students in ea h medical class which included a separate admissions system (Id). The new system mandated that a minimum number of "disadvantaged" students be admitted with each incoming class (Id). In 1971, the incoming class was 100 students -- three of them were Asian-American and none were African-American (Id).
Petitioner Bakke applied to the medical program for the years of 1973 and 1974 (Id). He achieved a satisfactory admissions score, and the admissions committee categorized him as a very desirable candidate (Id). However, the committee denied his application for both of the years he applied (Id). Mr. Bakke challenged the program based on his Equal Protection Rights of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The admissions program was originally declared invalid in the California Supreme Court, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed this decision on appeal (Id.) the U.S. Supreme Court reasoned that there was no way that the program could achieve its objectives of minority representation and counteracting past discrimination without a program that used race conscious measures. The Court also deferred to the "academicians and the specialists" to determine the best method of administering the programs they…