What is affirmative action?

Affirmative action is a program required of federal contractors to ensure equal employment opportunity. It requires a good faith effort to achieve and maintain a workforce in which minorities and women are represented at a level proportionate with their availability in the labor pool from which the employer can reasonably be expected to recruit. Affirmative action also includes good faith efforts towards covered veterans and individuals with disabilities.

What affirmative action is NOT

Affirmative action is not about quotas. Rather, 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.”

Affirmative action is not “reverse discrimination”. Regulations specifically state that 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 does mean taking affirmative steps to attract minorities and women for available employment opportunities and to ensure that candidates are evaluated fairly using non-biased job-related selection criteria.

Affirmative action does not reward race or sex 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.

Isn't affirmative action illegal in Washington state with the passage of I200?

Washington State law requires state agencies to collect and report the same data. Initiative 200, passed by the citizens of Washington State in 1998 and now incorporated into the Washington State Law Against Discrimination prohibits preferential treatment on the basis of race, color, national origin, and sex but does not prohibit action that must be taken to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal programs, if ineligibility would result in a loss of federal funds to the state.

Why does the University of Washington collect affirmative action information?

As a condition of receiving federal contracts, the University collects data and maintains an affirmative action plan regarding minorities and women. It also agrees to collect and report information on veterans and persons with disabilities. Failure to collect and report affirmative action data would result in the loss of eligibility for federal contracts.

What UW policies offer protection against discrimination?

Discrimination or harassment based on protected class statuses, including sexual harassment, are addressed by Executive Order No. 31, Nondiscrimination and Affirmative Action.

What can I do if I believe I have been discriminated against?

Employees who believe that they have been sexually harassed or otherwise discriminated against in violation of University policy, have several options for resolving complaints. Employees are encouraged to discuss their complaint with their supervisor, or, if the supervisor is the source of the complaint, with the administrative head of their employing organization. Please refer to Administrative Policy Statement 46.3 for further information. It should be noted that complaints with UCIRO must be filed within 365 days of the incident at issue.

Students who believe they have been harassed (including, but not limited to, sexual harassment) by another student should contact the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Life for information regarding options for addressing same.

Internal resources are available and include the following:

Federal and state agencies are also available and may be contacted:

What is discrimination under Title IX?

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects people from discrimination, including sexual harassment based on sex in education programs or activities which receive Federal financial assistance. Title IX states, in part, that: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, except [in certain enumerated limited situations].

Am I protected against retaliation for pursuing a discrimination/harassment complaint?

University policy prohibits retaliation against those reporting concerns regarding discrimination, cooperating with any investigation of discrimination, or participating in the complaint investigation process. An employee or student who is found to engage in retaliatory conduct is subject to appropriate disciplinary action, including dismissal.

Who has access to affirmative action information?

Affirmative action data are treated as confidential, are kept separate from personnel files, and are made available only to persons with a need to know. Summary level counts are included in required state and federal reports. The data reports for affirmative action can be seen on the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action’s webpage under Affirmative Action Reports.

How can I find out more?

The following links are to federal regulations and state laws, among others, requiring affirmative action.
Federal Affirmative Action Law and Regulations:

Washington State Law and Regulations: