The key difference between affirmative action and equal employment opportunity is that affirmative action focuses on actively supporting those who’ve been consistently deprived of fair and equal treatment whereas equal employment opportunity focuses on giving everyone the same opportunity to succeed.
Affirmative action and equal employment opportunity are two concepts we encounter in HR, Administration and labour laws. Moreover, despite the difference between affirmative action and equal employment opportunity in terms of scope and execution, fairness is the ultimate goal of both principles.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Affirmative Action
3. What is Equal Employment Opportunity
4. Similarities Between Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity
5. Side by Side Comparison – Affirmative Action vs Equal Employment Opportunity in Tabular Form
What is Affirmative Action?
Affirmative action (AA) refers to a policy that increases opportunities for underrepresented minorities in civil society. The primary aim of implementing AA programs is to increase the representation of people from certain minority groups within companies, institutions, and other areas of society. Further, this policy specially aims certain demographics with low representation in positions of leadership, professional roles, and academics according to historical data. It is often measured as a means of countering historical discrimination against particular groups.
Affirmative action has increased its scope to include gender representation, people with disabilities, etc. There are funds, scholarships and other forms of financial support in order to help minor segments of the society for higher education. Furthermore, there are new recruitment practices to promote those minority groups. However, the implementation and continuation of AA have drawn criticism as many people see its pros and cons.
What is Equal Employment Opportunity?
Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) refers to an employment practice where employees are not discriminated in terms of several demographics such as gender, race, colour, nationality, religion, marital status etc. EEO prohibits discrimination against anyone. It provides the environment to ensure that all applicants including males and females and all races have a fair opportunity in the recruitment process, in getting promotions and equal entry to career development opportunities. In other words, EEO is the principle that promotes equal rights to everyone for employment opportunities, without fear of discrimination or harassment.
Many organizations create EEO standards or policies to promote workplace diversity, motivate employees and create a safe workplace for everybody. There are two ways of discrimination people come across at workplaces: direct and indirect discrimination. For example, female employees are less paid than male workers even if they perform the same job and this is direct discrimination. An example of indirect discrimination is a policy of an organization that unfairly affects several groups; for instance, only managers have to work full time including Saturdays whereas others don’t have to work.
Employees should report any kind of discrimination and harassment to the management through grievance handling procedures. Furthermore, management must have reasonable and transparent EEO policies in the organization so that complaints can be easily and fairly managed and resolved.
What are the Similarities Between Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity?
- Both principles are related to HR, Administration and labour laws.
- Fairness is the ultimate goal of both principles.
What is the Difference Between Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity?
In the shortest form, the key difference between affirmative action and equal employment opportunity is that affirmative action focuses on discrimination against minorities, whereas equal employment opportunity focuses on discrimination against anyone.
Moreover, equal employment opportunity is widely used, and it is a universally accepted concept. On the other hand, affirmative action has gone through numerous legal conflicts and is still debatable in some countries. Some countries like Sweden and the UK have even declared that affirmative action is unlawful. Furthermore, affirmative action is designed based upon historical information whereas equal employment opportunity is a general policy which does not involve historic information. Besides, the affirmative action varies from place to place depending on minority groups whereas equal employment opportunity does not have such deviation. So, this is another difference between affirmative action and equal employment opportunity. Also, in order to promote affirmative action, financial aids like funds, scholarships are organized for minorities while such requirements are not seen in equal employment opportunity.
Furthermore, affirmative action is mainly considered and given priority in recruitment process whereas equal employment opportunity is considered not only in recruitment but also in employee confirmation, performance evaluation and career development.
Summary – Equal Employment Opportunity vs Affirmative Action
The key difference between affirmative action and equal employment opportunity is that equal employment opportunity considers everyone has equal rights and the same opportunity to succeed, whereas affirmative action considers actively supporting those who have been consistently deprived of fair and equal treatment. However, fairness is the ultimate concern in both concepts.
1. Grimsley, Shawn. “What Is Equal Employment Opportunity? – Definition, Laws & Policies.” Study.com, Study.com, Available here.
2. Kenton, Will. “Affirmative Action.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 9 Sept. 2019, Available here.
1. “Westchester Minority Map” By Westyschuster – westchestergov.com – county website (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “1448911” (CC0) via Pxhere