Myth: Affirmative action means quotas.
Fact: Quotas are illegal -- AA merely establishes the true qualified talent pool.
Quotas are illegal in the United States, except on rare occasions when judges order them to correct blatant discrimation. Affirmative action works by setting flexible goals -- which are based on the percentage of qualified minorities and women in the region. A company that searches in good faith but fails to find qualified minorities or women is not penalized for their failure.
Affirmative action is not a quota system, which would be illegal in the United States. The only exception is when a judge orders a quota on a company that has been found guilty of extreme or blatant discrimination in employment.
What is affirmative action, then? It is really a system of goals. Companies are encouraged to search in good faith for qualified minority or female employees. Their goal -- that is, the percentage of minorities and women they are seeking to hire -- is primarily determined by the percentage of qualified minorities and women in the region. (There are other factors). A company incurs no legal penalty if it makes a good-faith search but still cannot meet its goals.
Some critics of affirmative action claim this is still a quota system, since it quantifies the number of minorities and women that a company is supposed to hire. But notice that this system does not require a company to hire unqualified people to meet its goals. Also note that goals are flexible, since they are derived from the (changing) number of qualified minority and female workers in the region. Also note that if the company fails to meet its goal, the goal is simply re-established the next year -- and the next and the next, as long as the company fails to find qualified people. This is far different from a rigid quota system, in which a company must hire a certain percentage of minorities and women, or else be penalized by a judge.
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