Advancing Equal Employment Opportunities Through Affirmative Actions
Government Contractor Affirmative Action: More Than a Requirement, It’s Good Business
By law, all U.S. employers have a duty to provide equal employment opportunities (EEO) for applicants and employees. U.S. government contractors have a more specific requirement to advance EEO through affirmative action efforts based on specific regulatory requirements.
These requirements for government contractors are not the same form of affirmative action that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in 2023 regarding colleges and universities that involved quotas of students from specific protected categories. Affirmative action for government contractors involves efforts to hire and retain employees from a broader range of backgrounds and experiences, not quotas.
Businesses typically look sideways at any legal and regulatory requirements imposed on them. That’s unfortunate because of the business advantage these requirements can provide to the organization’s performance. <
Today, U.S. employers face some macro trends:
- The workplace is more diverse due to several factors, including continued immigration and greater workforce participation from individuals from specific backgrounds (women, mothers, and individuals with disabilities).
- There’s greater recognition and acceptance of diverse characteristics, partly due to increased societal acceptance and EEO and anti-harassment laws.
- Employers need more skilled workers as the country’s economy evolves from industrial manufacturing to a greater focus on technology and services; employers must broaden their reach to employment candidates and upskill their employees.
- Along with the overall population, the customer base continues to diversify, which requires a business to serve its customers’ diverse needs better.
Given these trends, it benefits an employer to find better ways to attract, employ, develop, and retain individuals from a broad range of backgrounds and experiences. To serve an increasingly demanding government customer and its constituents, government contractors must do a better job hiring, developing, and retaining the people they hire.
Affirmative action programs for contractors involve efforts to encourage employment and advancement of individuals from specific protected categories, including women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and covered veterans. (This provides the federal government an opportunity to advance its EEO goals through the contractors and subcontractors it uses.) Overall, a contractor’s affirmative action program should involve the following:
- Assessment: Identify ways the current workplace does not encourage hiring and employing individuals with particular protected characteristics.
- Development: Identify goals for recruiting and hiring individuals from certain protected classes; make the workplace hospitable for these individuals.
- Recruitment: Make more significant outreach efforts to these audiences to identify and encourage employment candidates; recruit and hire these individuals in line with hiring and employment goals.
- Advancement: Once hired, support the progress of these individuals in employment (which can include training, providing other opportunities, promotions, and retaining them).
- Evaluation: Evaluate progress toward the established goals; where a contractor falls below targets, it must make changes to improve future progress.
Affirmative action programs, by necessity, involve the organization’s leadership, affirmative action officers and staff, human resources staff, recruiters, and managers who supervise employees. These individuals need to understand the organization’s program, including through training and other awareness efforts. All employees may benefit from some awareness of how the organization’s affirmative action efforts support equal employment opportunities.
What are the benefits of these efforts?
A contractor that can successfully recruit, hire, and advance in employment individuals from a broader range of backgrounds and experiences—and ensure they feel a sense of belonging in the workplace culture—is more likely to see these advantages:
- A better sense of equity among employees
- Improved workplace morale
- Greater employee engagement
- Higher-skilled workers
- Increased collaboration among staff
- Improved productivity, innovation, and performance
- Greater organizational success
Building and maintaining an affirmative action program is one of the costs a government contractor must shoulder to compete for lucrative government contracts. In the daily rush of work, it’s easy to deprioritize compliance requirements. But when these requirements offer business opportunities for improved success, what is initially perceived as compliance may be viewed differently as a strategic advantage.
Syntrio has been providing harassment and other compliance training for over twenty years and is the industry leader. Our innovative approach focuses on ensuring that employers learn not just how to avoid liability but also a method of treating others inside and outside of work that will go a long way toward improving relationships and mitigating the stress of disrespect and bullying in the workplace. According to our research, doing so has a much greater impact than adhering to the states’ and municipalities’ training laws, which call for training on the bare minimum concepts. We look forward to speaking with a member of your organization soon to show you how we can benefit your culture, one employee at a time.
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