Frequently asked questions
Last updated: October 10, 2023
Affirmative action is a program required of federal contractors, like UW, to ensure applicants are evaluated, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their membership in a protected class.
Affirmative action prohibits contractors from making any employment decisions which factor in race, color, creed, religion, national origin, citizenship, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, or status as a disabled veteran or Vietnam-era veteran, or other protected veterans.
- Set placement goals for underrepresented groups
- Set an annual hiring goal for protected veterans (OFCCP benchmark percentage given in March 2023 is 5.4%)
- Endeavor to employ more individuals with disabilities (OFCCP goal for federal contractors is 7%)
- Evaluate efforts to create diverse applicant pools including good faith efforts
- Develop and execute action-oriented programs to address identified problems
- Evaluate recruitment processes and standards
Affirmative action goals serve as targets to measure the efficacy of efforts to recruit and diversify workforces. Goals also help indicate where hiring managers should diversify candidate pools for their job openings.
Quotas are rigid and inflexible mandates, indicating contractors are not considering candidate merit in hiring decisions. The federal government identifies quotas as a specifically impermissible action by contractors.
Affirmative action does not reward race or sex in place of merit. It is intended to ensure employers hire the most qualified people, including members of groups that previously have been subject to unlawful discrimination.
The following links are to federal regulations and state laws, among others, requiring affirmative action.Federal Affirmative Action Law and Regulations:
- Executive Order 11246
- CFR Title 41 Chapter 60-2
- CFR Title 41 Chapter 60-300
- CFR Title 41 Chapter 60-741
Washington State Law and Regulations:
Washington State law requires state agencies to collect and report the same data. Initiative 200, passed by the citizens of Washington State in 1998 and incorporated into the Washington State Law Against Discrimination, prohibits preferential treatment on the basis of race, color, national origin, and sex. I-200 does not prohibit action that must be taken to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal programs, if ineligibility would result in a loss of federal funds to the state.
Affirmative action data are treated as confidential, kept separate from personnel files, and made available only to persons with a need to know. Summary level counts are included in required state and federal reports. The data reports for affirmative action can be seen on the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action’s webpage under Affirmative Action Reports.
The University of Washington requests information from applicants and employees about their service in the United States military.
- For employees who served in the United States military, the OFCCP developed an infographic for determining which category may be the best fit: Am I a protected veteran?
- For employees who served in the United States military, but none of the VEVRAA categories linked above apply, they may want to select “I am not a protected veteran” or “I decline to disclose my veteran status.”
- For employees who have not served in the United States military, they may want to select “Non-veteran” or “I decline to disclose my veteran status.”
Affirmative action resources
Discrimination or harassment, including sexual harassment, based on protected class statuses is addressed by Executive Order 31: Nondiscrimination and Affirmative Action.
Employees who believe that they have been sexually harassed or otherwise discriminated against in violation of University policy, have several options for resolving complaints. Employees are encouraged to discuss their complaint with their supervisor, or, if the supervisor is the source of the complaint, with the administrative head of their employing organization. Please refer to Administrative Policy Statement 46.3 for further information. It should be noted that complaints with CRIO must be filed within 365 days of the incident at issue.
Students who believe they have been harassed (including, but not limited to, sexual harassment) by another student should contact the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Life for information regarding options for addressing same.
Internal resources are available and include the following:
- To make a formal complaint against a UW employee, contact the Civil Rights Investigation Office (CRIO)
- To make a formal complaint against a UW student, contact the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Life
- For guidance, mediation, and consultation, contact the Office of the Ombud
- To make a complaint involving UW athletic programs, see the Student-Athlete Grievance Policy and Procedures
Federal and state agencies are also available and may be contacted:
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects people from discrimination, including sexual harassment based on sex in education programs or activities which receive Federal financial assistance. Title IX states, in part, that: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, except [in certain enumerated limited situations]. Contact the Title IX Office for more information.
University policy prohibits retaliation against those reporting concerns regarding discrimination, cooperating with any investigation of discrimination, or participating in the complaint investigation process. An employee or student who is found to engage in retaliatory conduct is subject to appropriate disciplinary action, including dismissal.