What Is an Affirmative Action Plan?

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An affirmative action program, or AAP, is a program implemented to establish guidelines for recruiting and selection processes in a good faith effort to promote and maintain a fair and equal workforce. As part of the program a covered employer must create and implement an affirmative action plan that must be reviewed and updated annually. During the annual review, employers analyze the results of their existing hiring processes to determine if adjustments need to be made to prevent potential discrimination or adverse impact against women and minorities.

Federal and Government Contractors

Nonexempt government contracts must include an affirmative action plan and equal opportunity clause as part of a contractor’s agreement with the government. According to the clause, contractors are required to ensure that applicants and employees are treated fairly regardless of gender, religion, race or origin. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, or OFCCP, requires government contractors to conduct a self-analysis at least annually to determine if any current practices do not support and promote equal opportunity within the workplace.

Non-Construction Contractors

As of 2011, employers with 50 or more employees and government contracts totaling $50,000 or more are also considered to be covered employers under the AAP. Each employer creates its own affirmative action plan to assist with the annual self-audit and must keep the plan on file. The affirmative action plan is only required to be submitted to the OFCCP if requested during a periodic compliance review.

Construction Contractors

To accommodate the fluctuating nature of the construction industry and increase skilled trades opportunities for qualified women and minorities, the OFCCP has established separate AAP guidelines for construction contractors. In this industry, contractors are not required to create a written plan, and the OFCCP establishes the affirmative action goals based on the national average, which is 6.9 percent as of 2011.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Failure to comply with affirmative action initiatives or the equal opportunity clause may result in the cancellation or suspension of a contract as well as monetary fines including back wages and benefits. A contractor or employer who is accused of discrimination will be granted a full evidentiary hearing prior to debarment. A contractor who is found guilty of discrimination by a federal court may be required to implement a court-ordered AAP and may be ineligible for future contracts if full cooperation is not received.