Affirmative Action (Positive Discrimination)


The term affirmative action refers to a hiring practice that favors individuals that may have been discriminated against in the past.  Affirmative action programs attempt to provide employment opportunities on a non-discriminatory basis.


Also referred to as positive discrimination, the objective of affirmative action programs is to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity in the workplace.  While typically associated with the hiring process, a company's affirmative action program can extend into areas such as placement, compensation, promotional opportunities, transfers, training, disciplinary actions, as well as termination.

Affirmative action programs are rooted in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.  However, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 clearly outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, or national origin.  In the years that followed, protected characteristics grew to include creed, ancestry, age, disability (physical or perceived), marital status, gender, veteran status, or any other obligation to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States.

Contractors and subcontractors to the federal government are required to take affirmative action to recruit qualified minorities, women, people with disabilities, as well as veterans.

Related Terms

active job search, age discrimination, Americans with Disabilities Act, applicant pool, Equal Employment Opportunity, USERRA, Occupational Safety and Health Act, short-term disability, unemployment discrimination, whistleblower, wrongful demotion