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Understanding affirmative action in the workplace

While it is illegal to discriminate in the workplace on the basis of characteristics such as race, religion, nationality, gender or disability, imbalances are unfortunately still present. This means that there is still a significant gender pay gap, and minorities continue to be underrepresented in managerial positions.

Due to the representation imbalances that persist, large companies are seen to have a responsibility to put policies in place that address this. These policies are formally known as affirmative action.

Is affirmative action mandatory for businesses?

Affirmative action is not compulsory for all businesses. It becomes mandatory if a company sells more than $50,000 worth of services or products to governmental institutions and employs more than 50 workers. Additionally, a company may be ordered by the courts to develop affirmative action plans to correct any previous discriminatory actions.

What is an example of a typical affirmative action plan?

Affirmative action plans should be comprehensively laid out policies that actively aim to correct any imbalances in the hiring process. For example, a company may decide that they want to change the way that they advertise positions so that they reach a more diverse audience.

Additionally, companies might conduct research to identify barriers to entry that minorities face. For example, they may notice that women are more reluctant to apply for a job with the company because of the lack of a maternity package. This might be addressed as part of the affirmative action plan.

If you believe that your employer is not fulfilling their affirmative action duties or you think that you were discriminated against, it is important to take action in order to understand the law.

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