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Historical Perspective on Affirmative Action Affirmative action has received both praise and criticism since it was enacted over thirty years ago. Debates on the value and constitutionality of affirmative action have divided the United States for almost three decades. Some believe that affirmative action is the basis for rigid quota systems and reverse discrimination, while others view it as a needed tool to create an equitable society. Most of these disagreements focus on identifying who has suffered injustice, appropriate terms of compensation, and the steps needed to promote justice and equality. The controversy over affirmative action is unlikely to disappear or to be resolved because it is so closely tied to the assignment of valuable commodities, such as access to education, promotions, pay rates and employment selection. However, statistical benchmarks pertaining to unequal salaries, admission rates, and unemployment rates have demonstrated that there is a need for some type of affirmative action and reporting systems for monitoring progress toward eliminating such disparities. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order (E.O.) 10925, which established the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. Its mission was to end discrimination in employment by the government and its contractors. President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced the policy of affirmative action, E.O. 11246, in 1965 to readdress issues of discrimination that persisted, despite the inception of civil rights laws. This policy set the requirement that all government contractors and subcontractors take affirmative action to expand job opportunities without regard to race, creed, color or national origin. As a result, the Office of Federal Contract and Compliance (OFCC) was established to administer the order. Two years later, this order was amended to prohibit discrimination based on gender (E.O. 11375). Acting on this mandate in December of 1971, President Richard M. Nixon revised the order, requiring all government contractors and subcontractors to create “acceptable affirmative action programs” identifying areas of underutilization of minorities and females. Contractors were also required to develop time frames and positive actions showing good faith efforts to correct deficits.

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When the Workforce Standards Administration was formed in 1971, the OFCC became part of it, and added the word ‘Programs’ to the title (OFCCP). In 1972, the Equal Employment Opportunities Act created a commission to enforce such plans. In 1972, the Workforce Standards Administration changed its name to the Employment Standards Administration (ESA), as it is known today.

Your Partner in Human Resources and Affirmative Action

Phone: 800.882.8904 Fax: 410.995.1198 www.berkshireassociates.com Email: bai@berkshireassociates.com


Historical Perspective on Affirmative Action