At its highest level, Affirmative Action is a commitment by a company to make every good faith effort to take positive, results-oriented steps to eliminate employment barriers to women, minorities, veterans and individuals with disabilities. Affirmative Action is not a quota system or requirement to extend preference to unqualified candidates. In fact, government regulations forbid the use of quotas in Affirmative Action planning.

Executive Order 11246 is the primary piece of Affirmative Action legislation and is enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The executive order states that all government contractors must agree not to discriminate due to race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. The executive order also specifies that all contractors with 50 or more employees and with contracts of $50,000 or greater must develop and implement a written Affirmative Action Plan (AAP).

In addition to outlining an employer’s specific good faith efforts, written AAPs must include a statistical comparison between the makeup of a company’s workforce and its recruiting area as well as reports that monitor hiring, terminating, and promoting practices. The mathematical difficulty of creating these reports is why many companies choose to outsource the production of their AAPs. Outsourcing allows employers to use more of their time implementing a plan instead of producing one. AAPs can then become a management tool that can help uncover not only discrimination but pay disparities and problems with turnover.