Both the Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action are workplace policies that seek to reduce discrimination in business. The United States federal government instituted both programs in an effort to encourage diversity in corporate hiring and promotion. However, the programs differ in their goals, requirements and administration methods.

Equal Employment Opportunity

The Equal Employment Opportunity law requires that employers evaluate all job applicants fairly, without using their race, ethnicity, sex, age, religion or physical disability as a means for discrimination against them. Once a worker is hired, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act also mandates that employers extend job training and promotions equally to him, regardless of any physical differences or personal beliefs he may possess.

Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action is a proactive method of hiring that encourages employers to seek out members of historically oppressed groups, including individuals of minority races and women, for qualified positions in their companies. In this way, Affirmative Action is a more direct way of ensuring diversity than the Equal Employment Opportunity law. Corporations that participate in Affirmative Action may also provide specialized training and assistance to help women and minorities work up to management roles.

Equal Employment Opportunity Enforcement

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, enforces the Equal Employment Opportunity in workplaces across the United States. This law applies to most companies that employ at least 15 people. When an employee makes an accusation of discrimination, the EEOC conducts an investigation and may either negotiate a settlement or, in cases of egregious conduct, file a lawsuit against the company.

Administration of Affirmative Action

Unlike the Equal Employment Opportunity, all employers are not legally obligated to promote Affirmative Action. The United States Department of Labor requires that its federal contractors and subcontractors participate in the Affirmative Action program each year. Inside the Department, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs enforces the program’s policies for participating contractors.