California Affirmative Action laws & HR compliance analysis

California Affirmative Action: What you need to know

Affirmative action laws require an employer to make proactive efforts to represent individuals from certain protected classes in the workplace at levels comparable to those for unprotected groups. Affirmative action requirements are separate and distinct from nondiscrimination laws, which prohibit discriminatory acts against protected persons, but do not mandate proactive steps in their favor. This section is limited to a discussion of affirmative action requirements.
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Proposition 209, otherwise known as California Constitution Article 1, Sec. 31, states: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting” (emphasis added). This general ban is followed by a set of exceptions (discussed in the following paragraphs).
Article 1, Section 31, contains several important exceptions:
• California agencies and public contractors may make gender-based determinations when there is a bona fide qualification based on gender.
• The proposition does not apply to affirmative action plans existing on November 9, 1996 (the date this section became effective), that were developed in response to a court order or consent decree.
• California agencies and public contractors may have an affirmative action plan when necessary to maintain eligibility for federal funding.
Despite Proposition 209, if an employer contracts with California state government for public works or goods or ...

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