ALP: Does my company need to have a written affirmative action plan, or is its written EEO policy enough?

February 15, 2008

It depends.  Not all employers subject to the federal laws that mandate equal employment opportunity (EEO) are also required to develop affirmative action plans, and vice versa.  While the concepts of affirmative action and EEO share the common goal of eliminating discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, religion and national origin, the two are not the same. 

The concept of EEO encompasses all federal laws that prohibit job discrimination, most notably, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  Generally speaking, employers should adopt EEO policies aimed at eliminating job discrimination prohibited by federal law.  Affirmative action, which arises from Executive Order 11246, goes one step further by mandating that employers who meet certain requirements take affirmative steps to eliminate discrimination including, in some instances, developing a written affirmative action plan. 

The Executive Order covers contractors (and some subcontractors) that have supply or service contracts with the Executive Branch of the federal government for $10,000 or more.  These contractors, while subject to the Executive Order and its regulations, may not be required to develop a written affirmative action plan. 

A written affirmative action plan is required when a contractor employs 50 or more individuals and has a covered federal contract of $50,000 or more.  The plan must be developed within 120 days of the contract’s commencement and must include an EEO clause, which states that the contractor will not discriminate against employees on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, or national origin. 

Although not all employers are required to develop affirmative action plans, they provide an additional means of eliminating job discrimination.  Because of the complex statistical analysis required to develop an affirmative action plan, it is recommended that you seek advice from your employment law counsel to ensure the plan is tailored to your organization.