US Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) is a public body that aims at providing equal opportunities for people of different gender, race, background, ability, and religious affiliation in the workplace. The guidelines established by this organization are perhaps the most comprehensive guide to non-discriminatory practice. Thus, in outlining its policies against gender-related discrimination, the commission states that “the bona fide occupational qualification exception as to sex should be interpreted narrowly” and argues against labelling a job as “men’s” or women’s” (EEOC 2003).
Thus, the commission recognizes that stereotyping the professional behavior of women can lead to their perception as having a higher turnover rate than men or lacking skills to be an aggressive sales manager. The commission also voiced its concern over the existence of separate progression lines for men and women in which representatives of both genders are prohibited from occupying the next niche reserved for the ‘other’ sex. EEOC consider this practice unlawful as stated in Section 4 of Part 1604–Guidelines On Discrimination Because Of Sex.
EEOC (2003) warns that it is unlawful “for a help-wanted advertisement to indicate a preference, limitation, specification, or discrimination based on sex unless sex is a bona fide occupational qualification for the particular job involved”. Employment agencies under these guidelines are also required to reject fulfilling clients’ requests if they are aware that these requests contain unjustified preferences as to the gender of the prospective applicant.
Restrictions on employment of married women that are not applied to married men are also perceived as discrimination except in certain cases. The commission warns against “written or unwritten employment policy or practice which excludes from employment applicants or employees because of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions” (EEOC 2003). Consequently, the company that rigorously follows EEOC’s guidelines is bound to give equal considerations to all employees and applicants regardless of gender unless there is a bona fide occupational qualification exception.
One should consider the EEOC discourages not only overtly discriminatory behavior on the part of the company such as placing ads with indication of employment preferences, but also unwritten practices, thereby narrowing the opportunity for discrimination. Although EEOC guidelines call for equal treatment of both genders, there are still a lot of companies that violate women’s rights, denying them promotions, putting ‘glass ceilings’, and underpaying women. Equal Rights Advocates (ERA) is a legal organization that is determined to pursuing women’s rights in the workplace through legal counselling and litigation.
ERA believes that women’s rights are infringed when women are “denied promotions and training opportunities” or “shut out of high paying jobs and occupations” (ERA). Sexual harassment, penalties imposed on women who reduce their working time to devote more time to their families, smaller pay as opposed to men for similar work is considered manifestation of violation of principle of gender equality. The ERA disseminates information about how women can protect their rights in the workplace and helps women to defend their rights in courts. Affirmative Action
Affirmative action policies are designed to increase women’s participation in the workforce through stimulating employers to increase women’s participation in their workforce. The term “affirmative action” is usually applied to policies aimed at advancement of all discriminated groups in the workforce including women, ethnic and racial minorities such as Hispanics and Afro-Americans. The policies of affirmative action are based on the assumption that women and minorities were systematically kept out of highly-paid jobs by discrimination and bias.
Therefore, many organizations that almost exclusively hired white males are supposed to need plans that will boost female numbers. One example of such plan at work was realized in the San Francisco police department in the early 1980s. As a result of the plan, women’s proportion in the entry-level personnel rose from 4% in 1979 to 14. 5% in 1985 (Stephanopoulos, Edley 1995). By the way, the trigger to the development of the plan was the order obtained as result of the suit brought by the US Department of Justice against the City of San Francisco.