The Value of Affirmative Action at Michigan Tech

Michigan Tech is a Federal Contractor

Michigan Tech currently receives more than $23 million in government contracts/subcontracts a year. This amount far surpasses the jurisdictional thresholds that require Federal Contractors to comply with the equal opportunity and affirmative action regulations enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). Per the regulations, the University: 

  • cannot discriminate on the basis of protected class status,
  • must make good faith efforts to recruit, retain, and advance individuals from groups most affected by discrimination when the laws were enacted:
    • Individuals with Disabilities
    • Protected Veterans
    • Minorities
    • Women
  • cannot make hiring decisions based on protected class,
  • cannot set hiring quotas.

These are only a few of the requirements outlined by the regulations. The University must maintain compliance with all of the requirements in the regulations in order to remain a Federal/Government Contractor.

What does this mean?

This page is designed to help clarify/explain what "affirmative action" means in employment, provide a broad overview of the University's obligations per the regulations, and provide resources so that our campus can be well informed. Everyone has a role to fill when it comes to maintaining compliance.



Federal Regulations and Obligations

The OFCCP enforces three regulations:

Compliance Requires Everyone's Help

EOC monitors compliance, but all employees involved in any employment decision must ensure they comply with equal employment and affirmative action laws. The obligations of these regulations are robust, and there are aspects of compliance that everyone on campus needs to assist with, such as:

  • Follow all hiring policies and procedures provided by Human Resources and Equal Opportunity Compliance.
  • Complete assigned search committee training and use completed training modules as a resource during searches.
  • Take time when writing job descriptions. Required and desired qualifications should be well-considered and current; using an old job description may list outdated skills or abilities (e.g. a lifting requirement that is now performed via a machine).
  • Make an effort in outreach/advertising/networking to reach Veterans, Individuals with Disabilities, Women, and Minorities.
  • Document! Save job ads, take notes when evaluating/interviewing applicants, save all materials requested from/submitted by applicants. Send all documentation to HR at the conclusion of the search process.
  • Include the EEO Tagline in all advertisements and outreach.

The Danger of Non-Compliance

What if we don't follow the regulations?

The OFCCP selects federal contractors for compliance audits during which they perform extensive reviews of their Affirmative Action Plans (AAP) and check to make sure all of the requirements of the regulations are being completed. If a compliance officer discovers any issues, a federal contractor will be found in violation. Depending on the violation, the OFCCP has remedy/sanction options that include, but are not limited to:

  • contractor agrees to corrective actions to stop practices/policies that caused discrimination
  • back pay or other financial penalties
  • employment actions such as: reinstatement, placement requirements, seniority

If contractors fail to correct the violation(s) they risk sanctions that include:

  • suspension or cancellation of current federal contracts
  • being declared ineligible to receive any future contracts

Myths and Realities

When people hear the term "affirmative action," they think about things such as "quotas." Often, the belief is that a specific group of people is being "favored" over another in employment decisions.

Affirmative Action, when done according to the regulations, includes actions such as advertising using a variety of sources to try to attract a diverse applicant pool, ensuring employees involved in employment decisions are trained, reviewing/revising existing policies/procedures, and providing professional development opportunities so internal employees are promotable. These types of efforts align with and support a number of principles within Michigan Tech's Strategic Plan.

Myth: Affirmative Action means rewarding one group over another based on gender, race, or other protected characteristic.
Reality: Affirmative action is not about making decisions that disadvantage one group in favor of another; that is a violation of the law. When done as intended by the regulations, affirmative action ensures that people succeed based on their merits. Affirmative action is intended to make sure that employers hire the most qualified people, including members of groups that previously have been subject to unlawful discrimination.

Myth: Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action are the same thing.
Reality: Equal Employment Opportunity is giving everyone the same opportunity to be hired and thrive in an employment setting, while Affirmative Action is actively supporting those who have been consistently deprived of fair and equal treatment.

Myth: Affirmative Action requires hiring "quotas."
Reality: The concept of affirmative action in employment is for employers to rid themselves of obstacles that might prohibit minorities, women, veterans, and individuals with disabilities from receiving fair treatment, and to produce applicant pools of diverse and qualified individuals. Quotas have been imposed by judicial order, and only as a last resort to redress a pattern of blatant discrimination.

Myth: If a department has no or limited numbers of employees within a specific protected group they can give hiring preference to that group when making employment decisions.
Reality: Protected Classstatus can NEVER be a factor when determining any employment decision; this violates Equal Employment Opportunity Law. Even if a job group has a placement goal in a contractor's AAP, the regulations specifically state (41 CFR 60-2.16(e)):

  • "Placement goals may not be rigid and inflexible quotas, which must be met, nor are they to be considered as either a ceiling or a floor for the employment of particular groups. Quotas are expressly forbidden."
  • "In all employment decisions, the contractor must make selections in a nondiscriminatory manner. Placement goals do not provide the contractor with 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, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin."
  • "Placement goals do not create set-asides for specific groups, nor are they intended to achieve proportional representation or equal results."
  • "Placement goals may not be used to supersede merit selection principles. Affirmative action programs prescribed by the regulations in this part do not require a contractor to hire a person who lacks qualifications to perform the job successfully, or hire a less qualified person in preference to a more qualified one."

Myth: The Supreme Court's decision in SFFA v. Harvard and UNC affects the Affirmative Action requirements for all employers.
Reality: From the AAAED, the Supreme Court's decision in SFFA v. Harvard and UNC involves higher education admission and does NOT have a direct impact on the requirements of EEO and affirmative action under Executive Order 11246, enforced by the Department of Labor. Nor does the decision directly affect Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Employers covered by Title VII and employers that are federal contractors covered by Executive Order 11246 must continue to comply with both laws.

References: University of Oregon and University of Denver

Michigan Tech's AAP

Michigan Technological University is committed to equal opportunity and affirmative action. Michigan Tech meets the jurisdictional thresholds that require the University to have a written Affirmative Action Plan/Program (AAP) for each of the three regulations enforced by the OFCCP.

Affirmative Action Invitations

A requirement of the VEVRAA and Section 503 regulations is to provide an invitation to Protected Veterans and Individuals with Disabilities to self-identify. All employees and applicants are invited to voluntarily self-identify their veteran and/or disability status now or at any time in the future. There are voluntary opportunities to self-identify during the application process for applicants, during new hire orientation for newly hired employees, and at any time through Banweb or using the PDF post-hire EEO form on EOC's website for current employees. The EOC office also sends out a survey to current employees every two years providing information about and offering another opportunity to self-identify.

The following are resources that are available on Michigan Tech's web pages and should be referenced by departments to ensure compliance when making any hiring decisions.

Affirmative Action Terms