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Equal employment opportunity, like any other field, has its own terminology. The definitions given below should help you understand some of the terms you may encounter in this training module concerning equal employment opportunity and affirmative action.


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.

action-oriented programs

a section within the written affirmative action plan that lists actions designed to correct problem areas; it is a required part of the affirmative action program.

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 and to promote equal access in employment, e.g., recruiting, hiring, promoting, and training among certain groups (women, minorities, military veterans, and people with disabilities) who have historically experienced discrimination in this country.

affirmative action plan

a generic name referring to an entire organizational affirmative action effort, of which the written Affirmative Action Plan is one part.

affirmative action program

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.

Any Difference Rule

a rule that determines whether underutilization exists by measuring the difference between the availability of women and minorities compared to their percentages in the employer's workforce.

availability analysis

an estimate of the number of qualified minorities and women available for employment in a job group, expressed as a percentage of all qualified individuals available for employment.

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.

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.


making illegal employment decisions based on characteristics such as age, race, color, sex, national origin, disability, veteran status, or any other protected class.

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.

EEO-1 job groups

occupational groupings of job titles for the purpose of the affirmative action plan. They are: Officials and Managers, Professionals, Technicians, Sales, Office and Clerical, Craft Workers, Operatives, Laborers, and Service Workers.

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.

exectuive order

an order issued by the President of the United States to the executive branch of the government.

Executive Order 11246

an order first issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, and supported by all subsequent presidents, that specified the EEO clause for federal contracts, which requires affirmative action as a condition of conducting business with the federal government.

federal contractor

an employer that conducts business in the United States, with the executive branch of the U.S. Government and employs 50 or more individuals with a contract or 12-month billing of $50,000 or more; serves as a depository of government funds in any amount; or is a financial institution issuing and paying U.S. savings bonds and notes in any amount.

Four-Fifths Rule (also known as 80% Rule)

a rule that determines whether underutilization exists by measuring the difference between the selection rate for any race, sex, or ethnic group compared to the availability of employable indivudals in the selected group.

front pay

compensation going to a victim of employment discrimination; wages and benefits paid until a position becomes available reinstatement occurs.

goals and timetables

numerical projections or targets contained in an affirmative action plan which indicate through new hires, the employer's stated future efforts to achieve minority and female representation in its workforce that is commensurate with the availability of women and minorities in the labor market.

incumbency vs. availability

a comparison of the percentage of minorities and women in each job group with availability for those job groups that may indicated the need for a placement goal.

job description

a written statement detailing the major duties and responsibilities associated with a particular position title.

job group

see EEO-1 job groups.

job group analysis

examining and combining similar job titles within an organization by content, wages, and opportunities.

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 to determine promotions, salary increases, training opportunities, transfers, terminations, etc. is directly related to on-the-job performance.


one or more of the following groups of individuals: African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans/Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders, and females of all minority groups, including Caucasians.

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP)

the lead federal agency within the Employment Standards section of the Department of Labor that administers and enforces Executive Order 11246, affirmative action programs for Minorities and Females, The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974.

problem areas

A section of the affirmative action plan that identifies, using the analyses, areas of an organization that may need placement goals to attain a more balanced representation of minority and/or female employees.

protected class (or group) member

any individual, who by virtue of his/her 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.


a court-imposed numerical goal designed to remedy egregious discrimination that has had lingering effects on the composition of the workforce.

standard deviation

a statistical process that can measure the predicted fluctuation from the expected mean or average.

Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP)

guidelines on an employer's use of employee tests and other selection procedures.

value weight

percentages assigned to factors within a job group that indicate the composition of the group; for example, if 30% of the supervisors in a job group are internal hires, the value weight of that factor would be 30%.

Vietnam veterans

a person who served on active duty for a period of more than 180 days and was discharged or released with other than a dishonorable discharge, if any part of active duty occurred in the Republic of Vietnam between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975 or between August 5, 1964 and May 7, 1975; or was discharged or released from active duty for a service-connected disability if any part of active duty was performed in the Republic of Vietnam between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975 or between August 5, 1964 and May 7, 1975, in all other cases.

workforce analysis

A listing of each job title in an organization, including pay and supervision records, total number of individuals, total males and females, and total males and females identifying as Blacks, Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders, and American Indians/Alaskan Natives.

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