Frequently Asked Questions

Affirmative action is a program required of federal contractors to ensure equal employment opportunity. It requires good faith efforts to achieve and maintain a workforce where minorities and women are represented at a level proportionate with the labor pool. Affirmative action programs include good faith efforts for the recruitment and advancement of veterans and individuals with disabilities.

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.

Unlawful discrimination is an action in which employees or applicants suffer an adverse consequence, such as failure to be hired or promoted, due to their race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, political affiliation, political philosophy, or any other protected characteristic. CU Boulder discrimination policies offer broader protections than those found under federal and state law.
One of the biggest misconceptions about affirmative action is that it does not provide protection to white males and is discriminatory in its attempt to correct effects of past discrimination of minorities and women. Thus, the misconception is that qualified white males are overlooked in favor of minorities and women to fill vacancies resulting in “reverse discrimination.” The truth is reverse discrimination is still unlawful discrimination as it is based on ethnicity, race, and gender. During the conception of affirmative action, more emphasis had been placed on minorities and women due to the effects of blatant discrimination that affected their ability to be considered equal to their white or male counterparts in employment opportunities and compensation. However, today, any adverse action taken against an individual based on his or her race, ethnicity, or gender is carefully examined, including adverse actions taken against white males.
As a federal contractor, CU Boulder receives over $331 million annually in federal funds. Federal regulations under Executive Order 11246 requires contractors to record the race, ethnicity, gender, veteran status, and whether a person has a disability of all its employees in order to correctly assess areas of underrepresentation and analyze any disparate impact against any protected group in the recruitment process. Incomplete data comprises CU-Boulder’s ability to conduct meaningful analyses. As a federal contractor, CU Boulder must submit race, ethnicity, and gender information for all of its employees in affirmative action reporting. Thus, if an employee does not disclose race, ethnicity, and gender information, the Affirmative Action Officer will conduct visual identification to obtain the information.
Yes, all employees’ and applicants’ race, ethnicity, gender, veteran status, and disability information is confidential. In affirmative action reporting, all analyses are performed in the aggregate without identification of individuals.
Changes in the workplace and society have led to debate regarding whether affirmative action laws are still needed. In an age where minorities and women are employed at an increasing rate over the past few decades and a former President of the United States identifies as a minority, many people feel there should be an end to affirmative action laws and regulations. However, while conditions in the workplace have improved for minorities and women, discrimination still exists today. It may not look the same as it did forty years ago, but some groups continue to face challenges in employment. Also, there is a shift in recognizing that more needs to be done to attract qualified veterans and individuals with disabilities into the workforce; populations which have been historically underrepresented in the workplace. Federal contractors continue to be required to comply with affirmative action regulations or face large discrimination settlements and violations through audits by the federal government.
Affirmative action is a specific set of regulations and expectations for federal contractors. While the program can be a stepping stone for overall diversity, diversity refers to characteristics beyond the demographics associated with affirmative action. Diversity and inclusion are often terms used together to acknowledge the broad range of different characteristics individuals possess that go well beyond race, ethnicity, gender, veteran, or disability status. Being competitive in an ever-changing global community means organizations must recognize and understand diversity beyond ethnicity, race, gender, veteran, or disability status. Thus, at CU Boulder, affirmative action efforts are only part of the broader diversity and inclusion efforts of the campus.
A “placement goal” or “flagged position” is when there is a calculated difference between the percentage of employees by ethnicity, race, or gender employed by a federal contractor in a job group versus the percentage estimated in the labor market pool used for recruitment. (For example, if the U.S. Census estimates there are 32% women in the Denver/Boulder area with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be employable in a finance position and the organization has women employed in those positions at a rate of 12%, it would potentially be considered a placement goal. Thus, when future finance positions are available, we need to actively pursue additional ways to advertise for these positions to attract as many qualified women applicants as possible. However, as always, the most qualified candidate must be selected for the position, regardless of a placement goal and the gender of the applicants. Over time, the more the organization reaches out female applicants for finance jobs, the more likely qualified women will be chosen as the top selection.)
Affirmative action success can be determined by the success of an organization’s good-faith efforts to recruit, retain and develop women and minorities in percentages equivalent to those qualified and available in the labor market. Our good faith efforts are also evidenced by our policies and procedures that are designed to prevent discrimination in employment and provide equal opportunity. Even if CU Boulder ultimately does not meet its placement goals, the campus must still demonstrate its good faith efforts to satisfy those goals.
Anti-discrimination laws and CU Boulder policies apply to an individual’s race, color, ethnicity, sex, pregnancy, national origin, religion, creed, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, political affiliation, and/or political philosophy. While anti-discrimination laws and CU Boulder policies apply to all groups previously mentioned, affirmative action programs are designed to identify areas of underrepresentation for women and minorities; including Asian, Black or African-American, Hispanic or Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander, and those whom identify with multiple races. Also covered under affirmative action programs are veterans and individuals with disabilities.
Affirmative action laws and regulations are enforced by the Office of Federal Contracts Compliance Programs (OFCCP) under the Department of Labor. This agency conducts random desk audits using CU Boulder employment statistics and information with the potential to come onsite to campus for further investigation.
Penalty of non-compliance can range from additional reporting requirements to the OFCCP, possible fines with back-pay, and ultimately disbarment of federal contracts. In addition, the federal contractor would be subjected to scrutiny over its employment practices and it can have a severe damaging effect on the organization’s reputation.
CU Boulder has a dedicated Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) that is able to assist you. They can be reached at 303-492-2127 or visit their website. For making inquiries outside CU Boulder, If a person chooses not to pursue a complaint through the OIEC, complaints can also be filed with the Office for Civil Rights, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or the Colorado Civil Rights Division. Each of these offices have their own requirements for filing a complaint, so you should consult the websites for these offices and contact the offices directly if you have any questions.