Affirmative action involves the steps employers must take to include minorities, women, people with disabilities and veterans into the workforce. These steps include training programs as well as educational and outreach efforts that target underrepresented populations. The purpose of affirmative action is to provide equal opportunity to historically underrepresented populations. Employers must write and successfully implement an affirmative action plan and regularly update the program to ensure federal compliance with equal opportunity laws. Although affirmative action is designed to create equality, the program has some disadvantages that oppose fair treatment in the workplace.
A disadvantage of affirmative action is that the program often compels employers to potentially overlook highly qualified applicants in favor of only marginally qualified applicants who meet affirmative action standards. Although affirmative action hires are qualified for the position, in some cases they are not the most qualified of all applicants. This could possibly lead to high turnover if the position turns out to be a poor fit or the applicant fails to perform job duties optimally.
In a sense, affirmative action treats “majority” groups unfairly because the policy provides preferential treatment to minorities and other historically under-represented classes. Although affirmative action efforts are in place to prevent racism, gender bias and unfair discrimination, it creates these situations for the historical majority. Some may refer to affirmative action as a reverse form of racism or discrimination because the system now places the historic majority in a separate class because of race and gender.
Affirmative action guidelines require covered employers to meet certain goals and timetables for hiring and/or promoting women and minorities. This may coerce employers to make hiring decisions based on numbers and not the overall qualifications of the applicant. It also creates an increase in competition for well-qualified applicants because employers direct job postings towards minorities and women to increase applications for those groups.
Another disadvantage of affirmative action is that it places the focus on racial and gender related issues when employers should primarily focus on how well a potential employee will perform in a particular position. Affirmative action also draws attention to past issues of racism and discrimination. Although these issues may still exist in today’s business world, the affirmative action system cannot retract injustices of the past or completely eliminate them in the future.