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Equal Opportunity and Inclusion

EEO/AA Terminology

Equal employment opportunity, like any other field has its own special terminology. The definitions given below should help you understand any technical language you may encounter in the literature concerning equal employment opportunity and affirmative action.

  • ACCESSIBILITY - the freedom of a physically or mentally impaired individual to approach, enter, and use or participate in an organization's programs, benefits, services, activities and employment opportunities.


  • ADVERSE IMPACT - occurs when employment decisions such as hiring, promotion, and termination work to the disadvantage of members of protected groups. Adverse impact focuses on the consequences of employment practices, and as such, an aggrieved party need only to establish that an employment practice has the effect of excluding a significant proportion of women or members of minority groups.


  • AFFIRMATIVE ACTION - specific actions taken by an employer to eliminate the effects of past discrimination with regard to recruiting, hiring, promoting and training employees.


  • AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PLAN - a written document conforming to certain government regulations in which an employer conducts an analysis of its workforce and ascertains whether, and the extent to which, members of protected groups are underutilized in specific job groups. In those areas where problems are identified the employer must set goals and timetables to eliminate the underutilization.


  • AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PROGRAM - a generic name referring to the entire organizational affirmative action effort, of which the written Affirmative Action Plan is one part.


  • BONA FIDE OCCUPATIONAL QUALIFICATION (BFOQ) - a job requirement which permits an employer to discriminate on the basis of sex, age, or religion. Examples include the requirement that a performer playing the part of a woman be a woman, or that a clergyman seeking to pastor a particular religious organization be a member of that particular religion. The concept of BFOQ is interpreted very narrowly by the courts.


  • BUSINESS NECESSITY - if an organization's employment practices adversely affect members of a protected group, the organization must be able to demonstrate that the challenged practice(s) are essential to its operation and that no alternative nondiscriminatory practice exists.


  • CHARGE (COMPLAINT) OF DISCRIMINATION - a statement alleging discrimination, sexual harassment or retaliation filed with the organization's Affirmative Action Officer or a governmental agency.


  • DISABLED INDIVIDUAL - any person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of his or her major life activities, (2) has a record of such impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. An impairment is considered "substantially limiting" if it is likely to cause difficulty in securing, retaining, or advancing in employment.


  • DISPARATE IMPACT - applies to specific employment practices such as testing or other selection procedures which, although applied neutrally, adversely impact on women or minorities as determined through statistical analysis.


  • DISPARATE TREATMENT - discrimination by which an employer (supervisor) treats certain people differently because they are women or members of a minority group. Comparative evidence, statistical evidence, and direct evidence of motive may be used to prove disparate treatment.


  • EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY - an organizational policy of administering all terms and conditions of employment without regard to age, color, handicap, national origin, race, religion, sex, or veterans status.


  • GOALS & TIMETABLES - numerical projections contained in an Affirmative Action Plan which indicate through new hires, the employer's efforts to achieve minority and female representation in its workforce that is commensurate with the availability of women and minorities in the labor market.


  • JOB DESCRIPTION - a written statement detailing the major duties and responsibilities associated with a particular position title.


  • JOB QUALIFICATIONS - the educational background, prior work experiences, necessary skills and abilities, and any other requirements an applicant must possess in order to receive employment or promotion consideration for a particular position.


  • JOB RELATEDNESS - the extent to which the criteria utilized by an employer (supervisor's) to determine promotions, salary increases, training opportunities, transfers, terminations, etc. is directly related to on the job performance.


  • PROTECTED CLASS (GROUP) MEMBER - any individual, who by virtue of his race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age, handicap, or veterans status, is protected by anti-discrimination laws. Typically protected class members are: women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, the disabled, Vietnam Era veterans, disabled veterans, and persons over the age of 40.


  • QUOTA(S) - court imposed numerical goals designed to remedy egregious discrimination that has had lingering effects on the composition of the workforce.


  • RACIAL (ETHNIC) MINORITY - any person or persons who is considered to be or who self-identifies himself/herself as black, Native American, Asian, or Hispanic.


  • REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION - any alterations, adjustments, or changes in the job and/or workplace which will enable an otherwise handicapped individual or disabled veteran to participate or to perform a particular job successfully, as determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the individual circumstances. This term also refers to any adjustments made by an employer to accommodate an employee whose religious beliefs forbid working on certain days and hours.


  • SEXUAL HARASSMENT - an incident in which a person uses his or her position to control, influence, or affect the career, salary, or job of an employee or prospective employee in exchange for sexual favors. Sexual harassment also includes sexual innuendos; unwanted pressure for dates; inappropriate remarks about another person's clothing, body, or sex life; unnecessary touching, patting or pinching; leering or ogling; and demanding sexual favors accompanied by implied or overt threats concerning one's job and/or terms and conditions of employment. Unwelcomed sexual advances-requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature-constitute sexual harassment when:
    • Submission to such conduct is made explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual's employment or education, or
    • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or academic decisions affecting such individual, or
    • Such conduct has the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or creating an intimidating,hostile or offensive working or learning environment.
  • SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION - employment policies and practices which, though often neutral on their face, serve to differentiate or to perpetuate a differentiation in the treatment of certain applicants or employees because of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap or veteran's status. Systemic discrimination normally relates to a recurring practice rather than to an isolated act of discrimination, and may include failure to remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination. Intent to discriminate may or may not be involved.