HR Glossary for HR Professionals

Glossary of the most common HR terms and acronyms to assist professionals navigating the ever-growing and ever-changing world of HR terminology.

Affirmative Action

What is affirmative action?

Affirmative action requires businesses with federal contracts to promote equal opportunities among races, genders, religions, sexual orientations, disabilities, and veterans. Created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it works to amend historical wrongs and past and present discrimination. 

An affirmative action plan (AAP) is a document or program that consists of a statistical analysis of an employer’s workforce. This works to ensure equal opportunity for minorities and outlines steps an employer will take to provide equal opportunities. 

Examples of affirmative action

According to the Department of Labor, affirmative action includes training programs, outreach efforts, and additional positive steps. The Department of Labor provides a sample program for employers.

Employers may also have affirmative action statements. Here is an example from Viacom

“The Company has developed and maintained a written Affirmative Action Program (AAP). The company’s Chief Executive Officer supports the affirmative action program and urges each employee to commit to carrying out the intent of this policy. The Company maintains an audit and reporting system to determine overall compliance with its equal employment opportunity mandates. The EEO Administrator oversees the affirmative action plan development, modification, implementation, effectiveness, reporting requirements and conducts management updates. The Company invites any employee to review the Company’s written Affirmative Action Plan. This plan is available for inspection upon request during normal business hours at the Human Resources office.”

Affirmative action laws

There are three laws requiring affirmative action: 

  1. Executive Order 11246 requires federal contractors or subcontractors with over 50 employees who have entered at least one contract over $50,000 with the federal government to maintain an AAP. 
  2. Section 503 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires contractors with federal contracts over $10,000 to take action to employ individuals with disabilities.
  3. The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA), amended by the Jobs for Veterans Act, requires contractors to take action to employ protected veterans. 


States may also have AAP requirements for state government contractors.

« Back to Glossary Index