Goals or Quotas?-Diversity Resource Guide - Carnegie Mellon University

Goals or Quotas?

One of the most controversial issues related to affirmative action is whether we can or should give preference to women and minorities in order to meet affirmative action goals. In other words, are affirmative action goals merely targets that the university should aim for, or are they really inflexible hiring quotas that must be met—even if it means hiring women or minorities over equally or better qualified others?

The Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCCP), which reviews and evaluates our affirmative action program, maintains that affirmative action goals established under its regulations are flexible targets, not rigid quotas. Failure to meet such goals will not result in sanctions as long as the employer can show it has made a "good-faith" effort. Simultaneously, the OFCCP has advised that universities with formal affirmative action programs may find themselves on the receiving end of reverse discrimination lawsuits brought by, for instance, white male employees or applicants who believe they have been passed over in favor of women or minorities.

It is vital that we carefully scrutinize and document the reasons for every employment decision made at the university to ensure our human resource actions are based on merit and not personal bias or for some other subjective reason. We believe such safeguards can reduce liability, with both the OFCCP and disgruntled job seekers or employees.