EEO - Affirmative Action – Diversity & Equity, Inclusion – An Overview

EEO - Affirmative Action – Diversity & Equity, Inclusion – An Overview

As organizations focus on the implementation of diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) programs they sometimes, mistakenly, assume that there is no longer a need for EEO or affirmative action/affirmative employment efforts. This can be a serious error as each program contributes to the organization’s success in different ways. They are interrelated and interactive but they are not interchangeable.  Each represents a required area of decision making for most organizations.


“EEO” stands for equal employment opportunity. EEO refers to the legal and regulatory mandates that prohibit discrimination on the basis of considerations such as race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, genetic information and reprisal.  Similar mandates by States, municipalities, Executive Orders, and organizational policies can expand the list for those organizations under their jurisdiction. EEO is about compliance with anti-discrimination and anti-harassment efforts. Discrimination refers to unfair or unequal treatment or impact based on prohibited factors. Discrimination can also encompass harassment based on prohibited factors and failure to accommodate disability or religious belief and practice when it is reasonable to do so.

Employment decisions covered under EEO include recruitment, hiring, promotion, assignments, compensation, training,  discipline, performance evaluations, awards, termination and other conditions of work.


Affirmative Action/Affirmative Employment
Affirmative action refers to specific actions taken under an approved plan to increase the under-representation of certain groups which were previously excluded from employment opportunities.  In the past this distinction has often focused upon people from racial and ethnic minority groups, women, people with disabilities, and veterans, with an emphasis on veterans with disabilities.

Affirmative action initiatives must be designed and carried out in a manner that complies with EEO and does not create discrimination against other groups.


Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)
DEI refers to the organization’s ability to recognize and respond in an appropriate manner to the interests and needs of the various groups and individuals which make up its workforce, customer base and stakeholders. DEI are not mandated by law or regulation, are not limited to any specific groups or categories, and are driven by business realities.

The focus of DEI is upon individual differences as well as the cultural and physical distinctions that are associated with groups. DEI benefits the organization in multiple ways. It helps attract and retain a talent workforce; anticipate and meet customer needs; foster innovation and creativity; and ensures the organization lives its values through work environments characterized by respectful interactions and the elimination of barriers which tend to exclude participation in the mainstream of the organization.


Understanding the inter-relatedness and differences among the EEO, Affirmative Action and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will contribute to your overall effectiveness.