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Key Terms - EO/AA

When discussing matters related to affirmative action and equal opportunity, certain terms have very specific meanings, or may not be easily understandable. The following terms are commonly associated with affirmative action and equal opportunity. The definitions below relate only to the terms' use in the context of affirmative action and equal opportunity, and not their general sense.
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    ACCESSIBILITY

    The freedom of a physically or mentally impaired individual to approach, enter, and use or participate in an organization's programs, activities, benefits, services, and employment opportunities.
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    ADVERSE IMPACT

    Occurs when employment decisions such as hiring, promotion, and termination have the effect of excluding a significant proportion of women or members of minority groups.
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    AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

    Involves a comprehensive program of activities by which an employer takes "proactive" steps to remove barriers and improve the work opportunities of persons belonging to groups that have been historically deprived of such opportunities in regard to personnel actions such as recruitment, hiring, promotion and training.
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    AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PLAN

    A written document conforming to certain government regulations in which an employer conducts an analysis of its workforce to ascertain whether, 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 to eliminate the underutilization.
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    BONAFIDE OCCUPATIONAL QUALIFICATION (BFOQ)

    A job requirement that permits an employer to discriminate on the basis of sex, age, or religion. (Examples include requiring that a performer playing the part of a woman be female, or that a clergyman seeking to pastor a particular religious organization be a member of that particular religion. The courts interpret BFOQ very narrowly).
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    BUSINESS NECESSITY

    When an organization's employment practices adversely affect members of a protected group, the organization must be able to demonstrate that the challenged practices are essential to its operation and that no alternative nondiscriminatory practice could be used.
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    Disability

    A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record (or past history) of such an impairment; or being regarded as having a disability. An impairment is considered "substantially limiting" if it is likely to cause difficulty in securing, retaining, or advancing in employment. "Major life activities" include functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
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    DISCRIMINATION

    An act or acts, the effect of which are adverse to the employment of one or more individuals because of his/her age, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, or veteran's status. Such factors may not be considered as a basis for employment actions. Unlawful discrimination may be either intentional or unintentional.
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    DISPARATE IMPACT

    Applies to employment practices such as testing, or other selection procedures, which, although appearing to be neutral on their face, result in adverse impact against a group as, determined through statistical analysis.
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    DISPARATE TREATMENT

    Discrimination by which an employer (supervisor) treats certain people differently simply because they are members of a protected group. Comparative, statistical or direct evidence including documents and testimony of witnesses may be used to prove disparate treatment.
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    DIVERSITY

    Efforts that usually have a stated objective to make the environment more hospitable to all people by eliminating prejudice and embracing differences. This concept recognizes the richness that varied cultural and ethnic perspectives and life experiences can contribute.
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    ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS

    The primary job duties that are intrinsic to the employment position an individual holds or desires. The term does not include marginal or peripheral functions of a position that are incidental to the performance of primary job functions. A job function may be "essential" to a position if (1) the reason the position exists is to perform that function, (2) there are a limited number of employees available to perform that function, or (3) the function is highly specialized so that the individual hired for the position must possess the expertise or ability to perform that particular function.
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    EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY

    Is an organizational policy or set of policies for administering all terms and conditions of employment without regard to race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age, disability or veterans' status.
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    GOALS

    Numerical projections contained in an Affirmative Action Plan which indicate the employer's targeted efforts, through new hires, to achieve minority and female representation in its workforce that would be commensurate with the availability of minorities and women in the broader labor market.
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    JOB DESCRIPTION

    A written statement detaining the major duties and responsibilities with a particular position title. All job descriptions should specifically identify the "essential functions" of the position.
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    JOB QUALIFICATIONS

    The educational background, prior work experiences, necessary skills and abilities, and any other requirements an applicant must possess in order to be considered for employment or promotion into a particular position.
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    JOB RELATEDNESS

    The extent to which the criteria utilized by an employer (or supervisor) to determine hires, promotions, salary increases, training opportunities, transfers, terminations, etc., is directly related to the job qualifications and on-the-job performance.
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    QUOTA(S)

    Absolute numbers of hires or other placements imposed on an employer by a court, which is designed to remedy proven, egregious discrimination that has had lingering effects on the composition of the workforce. Quotas should not be confused with goals. Only a very tiny fraction of employers are subject to mandatory quota hiring requirements pursuant to a court order based upon findings of proven discrimination.
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    Racial/Ethnic Minority

    In the context of affirmative action, a racial/ethnic minority means any person considered or who self-identifies themself as African American (Black), Native American, Asian, or Hispanic.
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    REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION

    Any alternations, adjustments, or changes in the job and/or workplace, which will enable an otherwise, qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job. This is 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 or hours.
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    SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION

    Employment policies and practices that, though neutral on their face, serve to perpetuate differential treatment of certain applicants or employees because of their race color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or veterans' status. Intent to discriminate may or may not be involved.
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