Recent academic research evidences that even after the Title (1) Employment of the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted, both men and women with special needs are still subject to continuous discrimination at work (Armstrong, Koch, Lewis, Hurley, Lewis, McMahon, 2011). Gender and disabilities are the powerful factors that affect the levels of discrimination in the workplace (Noske & Hughes, 2003). Besides, females with special needs are likely to face double discrimination at work on the ground of their being females and differently abled (O’Hare, 2004). Apart from that, people of color are subject to discrimination in the workplace and other spheres, particularly education (Affirmative Action, 2012). This paper examines the reasons why Equal Opportunity Employment is an insufficient measure to prevent discrimination at work and analyses the background for increasing Affirmative Action attempts.
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The summary of the results of work carried out by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission leads to recognition of the fact that discrimination has not decreased across the United States. To illustrate, only in 2008 fiscal year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission got 28, 372 charges of discrimination based on sex differences. Having resolved 24, 018 charges on the ground of sex discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recovered more than $109 million for those individuals who charged. This and other facts have led researchers to acknowledging the failure of the ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act) to decrease the rates of discrimination at work based on gender and disability factors (Burkhauser, Houtenville, &Wittenburg, 2001; Armstrong, Koch, Lewis, Hurley, Lewis, McMahon, 2011).
In this context, there required positive action to further ensure that adequately qualified people get equal access to job opportunity and are fairly treated by the potential employers. This positive action, which suggests implementation of a number of policies and special programs, has been known as Affirmative Action (Affirmative Action, 2012). The purpose of the Affirmative Action has been to “further equal opportunity or to prevent current discrimination”, relating to all members of the American society, including women, people with special needs, and people of color (Affirmative Action, 2012).
Equal Employment Opportunity seems insufficient to wholly prevent discrimination in the workplace. This is evidenced by the statistics provided earlier in the paper and is generally linked to the following reasons:
1) Discrimination in the workplace still exists in the American society.
2) The progress has been made, but not to its full extent.
3) Many people with special needs, women, and people of color still have not received a chance to be evaluated fairly.
These reasons provide explanation as to why Equal Employment Opportunity needs to be supplemented with Affirmative Action measures (Affirmative Action, 2012).
The advantages of Affirmative Action that justify its continuous support by Americans are
1) Affirmative Action is effective and it works
This refers to the history of this movement in our country, which provides numerous examples of its successful operation. Specifically, programs of Affirmative Action that include the initiatives of training, recruitment, and outreach have led to provision of access to professional opportunities as well as chances of education for man, women, and disadvantaged people. Otherwise, they would have never get and utilize these opportunities. Also, Affirmative Action projects have been successful in destroying barriers. In particular, projects of Affirmative Action have served a leading encouragement for women, people of color, and the disabled in their efforts to enter those fields which have always been thought of as male-dominated. Besides, Affirmative Action outcomes for the higher educational institutions have been successful and resulted in a rich diversity of college campuses and rising rates of enrollment and graduation among people of color, people with disabilities, and women (Affirmative Action, 2012)
2) Affirmative Action effectively prevents discrimination in a number of directions
It ensures a level playing field for everyone as well as denies and cancels preferences enjoyed by many people on the basis of their wealth status for several generations, their ethnicity, gender, or race. In particular, Affirmative Action works to prevent discrimination on the basis of high socio-economic status and other benefits. This is related to the fact that race has not been the discriminating factor in many cases, with whites being discriminated on the ground of their low social and economic status. For example, in the book “The Shape of the River”,which was written by the ex-president of Princeton UniversityWilliam Bowen in collaboration with ex-president of Harvard UniversityDerek Bok, and James Shulman, it is clearly explained that if one eliminates the consideration of race, the probability of white people enrollment will raise only to 25.5 per cent from the initial 25 per cent (Bowen, Bok, & Shulman, 1998). Thus, Affirmative Action works to eliminate discrimination on the basis of various factors, not just race. One more example of such discrimination is alumni legacies that consider preferences of non-minorities. Ex-president Bush was given a “legacy preference” while entering the Yale University, which ensured his enrollment with a score which was 180 below the median score for Yale. This “legacy preference” benefits the children of alumni and is known to generally benefit the white people. Statistically, children of graduates make up from 10 to 15 per cent of the overall student population in the majority of Ivy League Schools, with Harvard accepting as many as 40 per cent of such applicants (Affirmative Action, 2012). Discrimination in educational opportunities leads to people’s inability to get decent educational background and prevents them from obtaining better-paid jobs. Coleen Sabatini, an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego, back in 2004, provided the following example: of the overall 24 classes that she took during her 2 years of studies only one of her instructors was female and none was either Chicano or African American (Pusser, 2004).
To conclude, despite the fact that many efforts have been made by the Equal Opportunity legislation and Equal Employment Opportunity measures, discrimination still exists in the workplaces. While people’s awareness has generally risen, in practice women, people of color and people with special needs are subject to discrimination, which is proved by recent statistics. The discrimination in the workplace is closely related to that in higher education, which means a certain group of individuals are prevented from entering universities, getting highly qualified and decent jobs as a result. In this situation, Affirmative Action is truly an equalizing measure that will help to create an equal opportunity in the society.