Affirmative Action


Affirmative action - a set of policies and procedures aimed at corrected the effects of past discrimination against women and minorities, especially in employment and education. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the major government agency which deals with affirmative action issues. Affirmative action has been a controversial issue among those who view it as unconstitutional "reverse discrimination" (see Bakke v. Regents of the University of California, 1978) and those who feel that it is a necessary, if flawed, way of ensuring equality in hiring and school admissions. One of the consequences of the 1989 case, Wards Cove Packing Company v. Atonio, was that the Supreme Court shifted the burden of proof of discrimination from the employers to the employees. This overturned the previous precedent that required employers to prove that hiring and employment practices were non-discriminatory with regards to gender or race. Nevertheless, Congress passed a law in 1991 which overturned the Wards Cove decision. The future of affirmative action policies is still unclear.