Federal regulations of Executive Order 11246 specifically state affirmative action is not about quotas. Rather, affirmative action goals serve as "targets reasonably attainable by means of applying every good faith effort to make all aspects of the entire affirmative action program work" and that goals "may not be rigid and inflexible quotas, which must be met.” Further, goals "do not provide … a justification to extend a preference to any individual, select an individual, or adversely affect an individual's employment status, on the basis of that person's race, color, religion, sex or national origin."
Affirmative action means taking positive steps to attract minorities, women, vetrans, and individuals with disabilities for available employment opportunities and ensuring that candidates are evaluated fairly using non-biased, job-related selection criteria.
Affirmative action does not reward ethnicity, race, gender, veteran status, or having a disability in place of merit. It is intended to ensure that employers hire the most qualified people, including members of groups that previously have been subject to unlawful discrimination.