The issue of equal opportunity has been of concern both to the field of law and management. The society has tried to understand this concept and how it helps to make the world a better place to be. Governments have come up with legislations that protect against discrimination of any kind. Companies have also been putting up policies in their operation to make sure that all the current and future employees are treated with the fairness they deserve. Despite these efforts, discrimination on the basis of color, tribe, sex and age among others has continued to have strong roots in the society.
Many people continue to be denied they rights due to factors that are beyond their control. This has been affecting the concerned institutions negatively both in production and human resource. It is important to shed more light on this subject since it is widespread and has substantial effects on the society. Equal Opportunity Introduction “Equal opportunity” is a phrase that has been used for a long time to refer to a number of concepts. It is a broad term and encompasses several meanings when used both in law and management.
Equal opportunity means the equality when it comes to access of promotions and jobs among other valued opportunities in profit making organizations, associations and not-for-profit organizations (Rabe, 2001). The term has evolved over time and has seen many changes in the way it is applied in the society. It has been used historically in America to refer to how African Americans were treated. Later, it was used to refer to the effort by women to secure civil rights and social equalities.
In recent days, the expression has been associated with disabilities, veterans and the aged as they seek to be incorporated in the full fabric of the society. The people commonly referred to as the protected class, are people who have at one point or another fallen victims of discrimination in employment and other types of discriminations that give others undue advantage at their expense especially in the job market (Rabe, 2001). Equal opportunity has come from far with so many court cases, government agency decisions, executive orders, and legislations.
Organizations and corporations have found it important to come up with separate departments that ensure the concept of equal opportunity is upheld at the working place (Rabe, 2001). The aim of this paper is to analyze the concept of equal opportunity both at the management and legal fronts. Issues to be discussed include the historical framework of equal opportunity, equal employment opportunities, current controversies and future trends, equal opportunity policies and programs in business, legal framework and management perspective of equal opportunities (EEOC, 2009).
Historical Development of Equal Opportunity Legislation Despite the belief by some that equal opportunity is a recent idea, the truth is that it actually started with the Fourteenth Amendment (1868). Though this important constitutional doctrine never addressed the issue of equal opportunities directly, it offered significant equality protection by the law. However much these provisions would be circumvented in the following years, law experts were still using them for the purpose of shielding themselves and their clients (Fairways, 2000).
Another major legislation towards equal opportunities came in 1933 when the congress passed the Unemployment Relief Act, which made it illegal for the employers to discriminate anyone with regard to their color, race or creed. This was again discussed in detail during the WWII Congress. These advances that were aimed at creating equality at work place did not receive much attention for nations were concentrating on more grave matters such as the war and the economic depression. The efforts were however not without some success since they went on building noteworthy federal programs (Fairways, 2000).
The issue of equal opportunity came into full swing during the presidency of J. F. Kennedy. The president, in 1961, signed an executive order that formed the equal opportunity committee with an aim of setting to motion the discussion on equal opportunities. This step towards fairness in employment was important both for the workers in government and those who had been awarded government contracts (Fairways, 2000). The civil rights act which was signed by the Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, was an important step towards the fight for equal opportunities.
This act is the major foundation for equal opportunity both as a management and a legal concept. It aimed at phasing out bias in employment based on the typical criteria of race, sex, religion, color or nationality. By the time it came to force, this act applied to only those employers who had more than 100 employees (Fairways, 2000). However, today, it applies to employers who have 15 employees or more. From the time it was conceived, it has undergone numerous amendments to ensure it serves the purpose for which it was put in place with effectiveness.
Some of the amendment that have been done on the Act include Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, the Civil Rights Reformation Act of 1987, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. This act can be credited with the formation of a five member federal commission, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), whose main duty is to effect the employment guidelines and provisions in the act (Fairways, 2000). Equal Employment Opportunity Policies and Programs in Business
According to Commonwealth Government of Australia, “Equal Opportunity (EO) in a workplace context means that all employees have equal access to the opportunities that are available at work. This means that all employees are treated with fairness and respect in that they are not subject to discrimination or harassment in the workplace” (EOWA 2010). Equal opportunity therefore becomes more of an outcome than just a process. The two most important aspects that have helped the conception of the idea of information about equal opportunity in work place are the prohibitive costs of litigation and the many costs associated with high staff turnover.
Due to these factors, both employers and managers have come to appreciate the importance of awareness of equal opportunity at work. These leaders normally depend on data collected through research to help them indentify the best ways of carrying out this awareness (Equal Opportunity, 2010). A survey done in 1986 by a private research organization by the name Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) brought to light several important human resource aspects related to equal opportunities. The research also revealed the passion managers had in bringing this knowledge to both their current workers and their prospective employees.
A total of one hundred and fourteen employers were surveyed and all of them reported that they communicated equal opportunity principles to their employees both at recruitment and after the exercise. There were several ways which were indentified as being used by the employers to communicate this information. Some used manuals while others used posters pinned on walls or notice boards in their organizations. A small percentage used handbooks for the employees (Equal Opportunity, 2010). In most organizations, the person concerned with ensuring equal opportunity is the manager himself or an individual who reports directly to him.
All the equal employment opportunities officers are normally charged with ensuring compliance with the regulations on equal opportunity (Equal Opportunity, 2010). Their main duties include conducting investigations, reviewing complaints and resolving the dispute. Most organizations, in their pursuit to comply with regulations, have their personnel decisions made by the personnel manager or the top executive. There are those organizations that offer training for their staff on aspects of equal opportunities.
Those areas covered by these programs include sexual harassment, equal opportunities employment laws and human relations skills. On matters of disability, several organizations normally offer special packages for those employees who have disabilities of different kinds. It is not unusual when one walks into these organizations to find special furniture and equipment suited for the disabled. (Equal Opportunity, 2010). According to a supplement from the director of equal opportunity in public employment, equal employment opportunity means that there is no form of unlawful discrimination or harassment at the place of work.
It also involves providing programs that will assist equal employment groups overcome disadvantages both in the past and the present (Equal Opportunity, 2010). There must be rules at work place. Practices, policies and behaviors which are fair and do not make people feel disadvantaged because of their belonging to a particular group must be upheld. This creates an environment where all workers are valued and appreciated and are free to pursue career paths which they choose since opportunities are open to them just like to the others. (Boyd, 2010).
Those groups of people who are affected by either past or continuing drawback are referred to as EEO groups. Such a drawback may make them have less opportunity in employment or be paid much lower than their counterparts once employed. Such groups may include women, members or racial, ethnic and ethno religious minority groups and those with disabilities (Boyd, 2010). To discourage discrimination and make these groups feel part of the society, EEO adopts strategies such as career training and development and easy access to recruitment programs.
Equal Employment Opportunity programs are developed to create diverse and skilled personnel, to improve the access to employment opportunities and participation by EEO groups and to come up with a culture at the place of work that shows fairness to all people (Boyd, 2010). Equal Employment Opportunity programs are based on principles such as selection on merit and this helps to attract and maintain the best people for each job. This helps the public sector to improve on productivity and service to the people.
The agencies in the public sector have a role to be representative and in providing places of work where people will feel valued and appreciated. (Boyd, 2010). Legal Framework of Equal opportunity The law has set some stringent guidelines to ensure that equal opportunity principles are upheld in all areas of the society. Several legislations have been put in place that address different types of discrimination and specifies the legal action to be taken against those who violate these rules (EOWA, 2010). Most of these rules and regulations affect the organizations that are funded by the government.
However, there are also rules that guide the operations of the private sector. These are meant to ensure that this sector does not misuse its autonomy of its operations to treat the minority unfairly. The civil rights movement in the United States is normally credited with the genesis of most of the legislations that protect the minority from being subjected to undue harassment and discrimination. (EOWA, 2010). From the time the civil rights bill was signed by President Lyndon Jonson in 1964, the debate on equal opportunity has included a wide coverage, and not just discrimination against African Americans.
A discussion on the major laws that prohibit unlawful discrimination of all kinds is presented below (Legal-Explanations, 2007). Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 has been amended to protect any kind of illegal discrimination at work place. The Act prohibits discrimination in hiring, discharge, promotion, fringe benefits, pay, classification, job training and referral among other related types of discrimination basing on color, race, religion, sex, pregnancy and national origin.
According to the Act, religious discrimination occurs when the employer fails to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of the employee where such accommodation does not cause undue hardship (Legal-Explanations, 2007). The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, was supposed to protect any form of undue discrimination against people with disabilities. Title I and Title V of this act prohibits the discrimination of candidates who are qualified by basing on disability in hiring, discharge, promotion, fringe benefits, pay, classification, job training and referral including other related types of discrimination.
This Act says that discrimination on the basis of disability includes failing to make reasonable accommodation to the apparent physical or mental disabilities of a person who would otherwise be qualified, either being an applicant or an employee, thereby barring unwarranted hardship (Legal-Explanations, 2007). The law also protects individuals against discrimination o the basis of age. This mostly happens to employees who have attained the age of 40 and above.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects such applicants who may face discrimination because of their age in the same benefits in the above mentioned areas, that is, hiring, discharge, promotion, fringe benefits, pay, classification, job training and referral (Gwendolyn, 2010). The law requires that employees of both gender be treated fairly when it comes to wages. If the services given to the organization by both sexes are the same, there should be no unfair differences in wages. This is included in the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
There should be no discrimination to men and women in paying of wages if the work performed is substantially equal, requires the same skills, responsibility, effort and similar working conditions in the same organization (Gwendolyn, 2010). Recently, applicants with genetic differences from those the employer may desire were protected by the law. This was trough the enactment of the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act of 2008. No applicant should be discriminated on the basis of their genetic information if they are qualified.
This act prohibits the employer from making any attempts to get genetic information of the employees and also makes strict regulations as to who should have access to such information (DOL, 2010). Victims of discrimination are normally advised to observe the strict time limits set for filing charges of the same. It therefore important for an individual who believes he or she has been discriminated against unfairly to lodge such complaints to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission immediately. The EEOC has provided a toll free hotline phone number to be used for lodging complaints (Safe Workers, 2010).
Conclusion Equal opportunity is a concept that is very important both to law and management areas. The law has given comprehensive guidelines to deal with cases of discrimination of all types. These guidelines contained in the many acts are reviewed after every short while to make them comprehensive and responsive. In management, the administration of most organizations has come up with departments that are supposed to ensure principles of equal opportunity are upheld. Such organizations also disseminate information both to their current and future employees on their stand on equal opportunity.
The presence of instances of discrimination despite all the efforts both by the private sector and the law leaves the debate on whether enough has been done to promote equal opportunity still open. References Boyd, C. (2010). Equal opportunity. Retrieved from http://www. referenceforbusiness. com/encyclopedia/Ent-Fac/Equal-Opportunity. html Business Dictionary. (2010). Equal opportunity. Retrieved from http://www. businessdictionary. com/definition/equal-opportunity. html DOL. (2010). Summary of the major laws of the department of labor. Retrieved from http://www. dol. gov/opa/aboutdol/lawsprog.
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