An affirmative action program (AAP) is a management tool designed to ensure equal opportunity in recruiting, hiring, training, promoting, and compensating individuals.
A good AAP is a diagnostic tool that evaluates the composition of the workforce, compares that with the composition of the relevant labor pool, and then includes practical steps to address underrepresentation of specific groups.
An effective AAP includes internal auditing and reporting systems that measure the employer’s/contractor's progress toward achieving the workforce that would be expected in the absence of discrimination.
While any employer can implement an affirmative action (or equal opportunity) plan, these programs most often arise in the government contractor context, where such plans are required by law.
Affirmative action requirements can be imposed on an employer in a number of ways: by federal law (for federal government contractors and subcontractors); as part of a conciliation agreement with a state or federal agency; or by court order.
Employers that are not required to have an AAP may still adopt measures to increase diversity in order to create a more balanced workforce.
Voluntary steps taken to increase diversity do not have to meet the requirements listed here.