';


Title 29 Part 1608

Title 29 → Subtitle B → Chapter XIV → Part 1608

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations e-CFR

Title 29 Part 1608

e-CFR data is current as of February 20, 2020

Title 29Subtitle BChapter XIV → Part 1608


Title 29: Labor


§1608.1   Statement of purpose.

(a) Need for Guidelines. Since the passage of title VII in 1964, many employers, labor organizations, and other persons subject to title VII have changed their employment practices and systems to improve employment opportunities for minorities and women, and this must continue. These changes have been undertaken either on the initiative of the employer, labor organization, or other person subject to title VII, or as a result of conciliation efforts under title VII, action under Executive Order 11246, as amended, or under other Federal, State, or local laws, or litigation. Many decisions taken pursuant to affirmative action plans or programs have been race, sex, or national origin conscious in order to achieve the Congressional purpose of providing equal employment opportunity. Occasionally, these actions have been challenged as inconsistent with title VII, because they took into account race, sex, or national origin. This is the so-called “reverse discrimination” claim. In such a situation, both the affirmative action undertaken to improve the conditions of minorities and women, and the objection to that action, are based upon the principles of title VII. Any uncertainty as to the meaning and application of title VII in such situations threatens the accomplishment of the clear Congressional intent to encourage voluntary affirmative action. The Commission believes that by the enactment of title VII Congress did not intend to expose those who comply with the Act to charges that they are violating the very statute they are seeking to implement. Such a result would immobilize or reduce the efforts of many who would otherwise take action to improve the opportunities of minorities and women without litigation, thus frustrating the Congressional intent to encourage voluntary action and increasing the prospect of title VII litigation. The Commission believes that it is now necessary to clarify and harmonize the principles of title VII in order to achieve these Congressional objectives and protect those employers, labor organizations, and other persons who comply with the principles of title VII.

(b) Purposes of title VII. Congress enacted title VII in order to improve the economic and social conditions of minorities and women by providing equality of opportunity in the work place. These conditions were part of a larger pattern of restriction, exclusion, discrimination, segregation, and inferior treatment of minorities and women in many areas of life.2 The Legislative Histories of title VII, the Equal Pay Act, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 contain extensive analyses of the higher unemployment rate, the lesser occupational status, and the consequent lower income levels of minorities and women.3 The purpose of Executive Order No. 11246, as amended, is similar to the purpose of title VII. In response to these economic and social conditions, Congress, by passage of title VII, established a national policy against discrimination in employment on grounds of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. In addition, Congress strongly encouraged employers, labor organizations, and other persons subject to title VII (hereinafter referred to as “persons,” see section 701(a) of the Act) to act on a voluntary basis to modify employment practices and systems which constituted barriers to equal employment opportunity, without awaiting litigation or formal government action. Conference, conciliation, and persuasion were the primary processes adopted by Congress in 1964, and reaffirmed in 1972, to achieve these objectives, with enforcement action through the courts or agencies as a supporting procedure where voluntary action did not take place and conciliation failed. See section 706 of title VII.

2Congress has also addressed these conditions in other laws, including the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Pub. L. 88-38, 77 Stat. 56 (1963), as amended; the other titles of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Pub. L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241 (1964), as amended; the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Pub. L. 89-110, 79 Stat. 437 (1965), as amended; the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Pub. L. 90-284, title VII, 82 Stat. 73, 81 (1968), as amended; the Educational Opportunity Act (title IX), Pub. L. 92-318, 86 Stat. 373 (1972), as amended; and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, Pub. L. 92-261, 86 Stat. 103 (1972), as amended.

3Equal Pay Act of 1963: S. Rep. No. 176, 88th Cong., 1st Sess., 1-2 (1963). Civil Rights Act of 1964: H.R. Rep. No. 914, pt. 2, 88th Cong., 1st Sess. (1971). Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972: H.R. Rep. No. 92-238, 92d Cong., 1st Sess. (1971); S. Rep. No. 92-415, 92d Cong., 1st Sess. (1971). See also, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Equal Employment Opportunity Report—1975, Job Patterns for Women in Private Industry (1977); Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Minorities and Women in State and Local Government—1975 (1977); United States Commission on Civil Rights, Social Indicators of Equality for Minorities and Women (1978).

(c) Interpretation in furtherance of legislative purpose. The principle of nondiscrimination in employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and the principle that each person subject to title VII should take voluntary action to correct the effects of past discrimination and to prevent present and future discrimination without awaiting litigation, are mutually consistent and interdependent methods of addressing social and economic conditions which precipitated the enactment of title VII. Voluntary affirmative action to improve opportunities for minorities and women must be encouraged and protected in order to carry out the Congressional intent embodied in title VII.4 Affirmative action under these principles means those actions appropriate to overcome the effects of past or present practices, policies, or other barriers to equal employment opportunity. Such voluntary affirmative action cannot be measured by the standard of whether it would have been required had there been litigation, for this standard would undermine the legislative purpose of first encouraging voluntary action without litigation. Rather, persons subject to title VII must be allowed flexibility in modifying employment systems and practices to comport with the purposes of title VII. Correspondingly, title VII must be construed to permit such voluntary action, and those taking such action should be afforded the protection against title VII liability which the Commission is authorized to provide under section 713(b)(1).

4Affirmative action often improves opportunities for all members of the workforce, as where affirmative action includes the posting of notices of job vacancies. Similarly, the integration of previously segregated jobs means that all workers will be provided opportunities to enter jobs previously restricted. See, e.g., EEOC v. AT&T, 419 F. Supp. 1022 (E.D.Pa. 1976), aff'd, 556 F. 2d 167 (3rd Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 98 S.Ct. 3145 (1978).

(d) Guidelines interpret title VII and authorize use of section 713(b)(1). These Guidelines describe the circumstances in which persons subject to title VII may take or agree upon action to improve employment opportunities of minorities and women, and describe the kinds of actions they may take which are consistent with title VII. These Guidelines constitute the Commission's interpretation of title VII and will be applied in the processing of claims of discrimination which involve voluntary affirmative action plans and programs. In addition, these Guidelines state the circumstances under which the Commission will recognize that a person subject to title VII is entitled to assert that actions were taken “in good faith, in conformity with, and in reliance upon a written interpretation or opinion of the Commission,” including reliance upon the interpretation and opinion contained in these Guidelines, and thereby invoke the protection of section 713(b)(1) of title VII.

(e) Review of existing plans recommended. Only affirmative action plans or programs adopted in good faith, in conformity with, and in reliance upon these Guidelines can receive the full protection of these Guidelines, including the section 713(b)(1) defense. See §1608.10. Therefore, persons subject to title VII who have existing affirmative action plans, programs, or agreements are encouraged to review them in light of these Guidelines, to modify them to the extent necessary to comply with these Guidelines, and to readopt or reaffirm them.

return arrow Back to Top

§1608.2   Written interpretation and opinion.

These Guidelines constitute “a written interpretation and opinion” of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as that term is used in section 713(b)(1) of title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-12(b)(1), and §1601.33 of the Procedural Regulations of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (29 CFR 1601.30; 42 FR 55,394 (October 14, 1977)). Section 713(b)(1) provides:

In any action or proceeding based on any alleged unlawful employment practice, no person shall be subject to any liability or punishment for or on account of (1) the commission by such person of an unlawful employment practice if he pleads and proves that the act or omission complained of was in good faith, in conformity with, and in reliance on any written interpretation or opinion of the Commission * * *. Such a defense, if established, shall be a bar to the action or proceeding, notwithstanding that * * * after such act or omission, such interpretation or opinion is modified or rescinded or is determined by judicial authority to be invalid or of no legal effect  *  *  *.

The applicability of these Guidelines is subject to the limitations on use set forth in §1608.11.

return arrow Back to Top

§1608.3   Circumstances under which voluntary affirmative action is appropriate.

(a) Adverse effect. Title VII prohibits practices, procedures, or policies which have an adverse impact unless they are justified by business necessity. In addition, title VII proscribes practices which “tend to deprive” persons of equal employment opportunities. Employers, labor organizations and other persons subject to title VII may take affirmative action based on an analysis which reveals facts constituting actual or potential adverse impact, if such adverse impact is likely to result from existing or contemplated practices.

(b) Effects of prior discriminatory practices. Employers, labor organizations, or other persons subject to title VII may also take affirmative action to correct the effects of prior discriminatory practices. The effects of prior discriminatory practices can be initially identified by a comparison between the employer's work force, or a part thereof, and an appropriate segment of the labor force.

(c) Limited labor pool. Because of historic restrictions by employers, labor organizations, and others, there are circumstances in which the available pool, particularly of qualified minorities and women, for employment or promotional opportunities is artificially limited. Employers, labor organizations, and other persons subject to title VII may, and are encouraged to take affirmative action in such circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following:

(1) Training plans and programs, including on-the-job training, which emphasize providing minorities and women with the opportunity, skill, and expericence necessary to perform the functions of skilled trades, crafts, or professions;

(2) Extensive and focused recruiting activity;

(3) Elimination of the adverse impact caused by unvalidated selection criteria (see sections 3 and 6, Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (1978), 43 FR 30290; 38297; 38299 (August 25, 1978));

(4) Modification through collective bargaining where a labor organization represents employees, or unilaterally where one does not, of promotion and layoff procedures.

return arrow Back to Top

§1608.4   Establishing affirmative action plans.

An affirmative action plan or program under this section shall contain three elements: a reasonable self analysis; a reasonable basis for concluding action is appropriate; and reasonable action.

(a) Reasonable self analysis. The objective of a self analysis is to determine whether employment practices do, or tend to, exclude, disadvantage, restrict, or result in adverse impact or disparate treatment of previously excluded or restricted groups or leave uncorrected the effects of prior discrimination, and if so, to attempt to determine why. There is no mandatory method of conducting a self analysis. The employer may utilize techniques used in order to comply with Executive Order 11246, as amended, and its implementing regulations, including 41 CFR part 60-2 (known as Revised Order 4), or related orders issued by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs or its authorized agencies, or may use an analysis similar to that required under other Federal, State, or local laws or regulations prohibiting employment discrimination. In conducting a self analysis, the employer, labor organization, or other person subject to title VII should be concerned with the effect on its employment practices of circumstances which may be the result of discrimination by other persons or institutions. See Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971).

(b) Reasonable basis. If the self analysis shows that one or more employment practices:

(1) Have or tend to have an adverse effect on employment opportunities of members of previously excluded groups, or groups whose employment or promotional opportunities have been artificially limited,

(2) Leave uncorrected the effects of prior discrimination, or

(3) Result in disparate treatment, the person making the self analysis has a reasonable basis for concluding that action is appropriate.

It is not necessary that the self analysis establish a violation of title VII. This reasonable basis exists without any admission or formal finding that the person has violated title VII, and without regard to whether there exists arguable defenses to a title VII action.

(c) Reasonable action. The action taken pursuant to an affirmative action plan or program must be reasonable in relation to the problems disclosed by the self analysis. Such reasonable action may include goals and timetables or other appropriate employment tools which recognize the race, sex, or national origin of applicants or employees. It may include the adoption of practices which will eliminate the actual or potential adverse impact, disparate treatment, or effect or past discrimination by providing opportunities for members of groups which have been excluded, regardless of whether the persons benefited were themselves the victims of prior policies or procedures which produced the adverse impact or disparate treatment or which perpetuated past discrimination.

(1) Illustrations of appropriate affirmative action. Affirmative action plans or programs may include, but are not limited to, those described in the Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinating Council “Policy Statement on Affirmative Action Programs for State and Local Government Agencies,” 41 FR 38814 (September 13, 1976), reaffirmed and extended to all persons subject to Federal equal employment opportunity laws and orders, in the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (1978) 43 FR 38290; 38300 (Aug. 25, 1978). That statement reads, in relevant part:

When an employer has reason to believe that its selection procedures have * * * exclusionary effect * * *, it should initiate affirmative steps to remedy the situation. Such steps, which in design and execution may be race, color, sex or ethnic ‘conscious,’ include, but are not limited to, the following:

The establishment of a long term goal and short range, interim goals and timetables for the specific job classifications, all of which should take into account the availability of basically qualified persons in the relevant job market;

A recruitment program designed to attract qualified members of the group in question;

A systematic effort to organize work and re-design jobs in ways that provide opportunities for persons lacking ‘journeyman’ level knowledge or skills to enter and, with appropriate training, to progress in a career field;

Revamping selection instruments or procedures which have not yet been validated in order to reduce or eliminate exclusionary effects on particular groups in particular job classifications;

The initiation of measures designed to assure that members of the affected group who are qualified to perform the job are included within the pool of persons from which the selecting official makes the selection;

A systematic effort to provide career advancement training, both classroom and on-the-job, to employees locked into dead end jobs; and

The establishment of a system for regularly monitoring the effectiveness of the particular affirmative action program, and procedures for making timely adjustments in this program where effectiveness is not demonstrated.

(2) Standards of reasonable action. In considering the reasonableness of a particular affirmative action plan or program, the Commission will generally apply the following standards:

(i) The plan should be tailored to solve the problems which were identified in the self analysis, see §1608.4(a), supra, and to ensure that employment systems operate fairly in the future, while avoiding unnecessary restrictions on opportunities for the workforce as a whole. The race, sex, and national origin conscious provisions of the plan or program should be maintained only so long as is necessary to achieve these objectives.

(ii) Goals and timetables should be reasonably related to such considerations as the effects of past discrimination, the need for prompt elimination of adverse impact or disparate treatment, the availability of basically qualified or qualifiable applicants, and the number of employment opportunities expected to be available.

(d) Written or unwritten plans or programs—(1) Written plans required for 713(b)(1) protection. The protection of section 713(b) of title VII will be accorded by the Commission to a person subject to title VII only if the self analysis and the affirmative action plan are dated and in writing, and the plan otherwise meets the requirements of section 713(b)(1). The Commission will not require that there be any written statement concluding that a title VII violation exists.

(2) Reasonable cause determinations. Where an affirmative action plan or program is alleged to violate title VII, or is asserted as a defense to a charge of discrimination, the Commission will investigate the charge in accordance with its usual procedures and pursuant to the standards set forth in these Guidelines, whether or not the analysis and plan are in writing. However, the absence of a written self analysis and a written affirmative action plan or program may make it more difficult to provide credible evidence that the analysis was conducted, and that action was taken pursuant to a plan or program based on the analysis. Therefore, the Commission recommends that such analyses and plans be in writing.

return arrow Back to Top

§1608.5   Affirmative action compliance programs under Executive Order No. 11246, as amended.

Under title VII, affirmative action compliance programs adopted pursuant to Executive Order 11246, as amended, and its implementing regulations, including 41 CFR part 60-2 (Revised Order 4), will be considered by the Commission in light of the similar purposes of title VII and the Executive Order, and the Commission's responsibility under Executive Order 12067 to avoid potential conflict among Federal equal employment opportunity programs. Accordingly, the Commission will process title VII complaints involving such affirmative action compliance programs under this section.

(a) Procedures for review of Affirmative Action Compliance Programs. If adherence to an affirmative action compliance program adopted pursuant to Executive Order 11246, as amended, and its implementing regulations, is the basis of a complaint filed under title VII, or is alleged to be the justification for an action which is challenged under title VII, the Commission will investigate to determine whether the affirmative action compliance program was adopted by a person subject to the Order and pursuant to the Order, and whether adherence to the program was the basis of the complaint or the justification.

(1) Programs previously approved. If the Commission makes the determination described in paragraph (a) of this section and also finds that the affirmative action program has been approved by an appropriate official of the Department of Labor or its authorized agencies, or is part of a conciliation or settlement agreement or an order of an administrative agency, whether entered by consent or after contested proceedings brought to enforce Executive Order 11246, as amended, the Commission will issue a determination of no reasonable cause.

(2) Program not previously approved. If the Commission makes the determination described in paragraph (a), of this section but the program has not been approved by an appropriate official of the Department of Labor or its authorized agencies, the Commission will: (i) Follow the procedure in §1608.10(a) and review the program, or (ii) refer the plan to the Department of Labor for a determination of whether it is to be approved under Executive Order 11246, as amended, and its implementing regulations. If, the Commission finds that the program does conform to these Guidelines, or the Department of Labor approves the affirmative action compliance program, the Commission will issue a determination of no reasonable cause under §1608.10(a).

(b) Reliance on these guidelines. In addition, if the affirmative action compliance program has been adopted in good faith reliance on these Guidelines, the provisions of section 713(b)(1) of title VII and of §1608.10(b), of this part, may be asserted by the contractor.

return arrow Back to Top

§1608.6   Affirmative action plans which are part of Commission conciliation or settlement agreements.

(a) Procedures for review of plans. If adherence to a conciliation or settlement agreement executed under title VII and approved by a responsible official of the EEOC is the basis of a complaint filed under title VII, or is alleged to be the justification for an action challenged under title VII, the Commission will investigate to determine:

(1) Whether the conciliation agreement or settlement agreement was approved by a responsible official of the EEOC, and

(2) Whether adherence to the agreement was the basis for the complaint or justification.

If the Commission so finds, it will make a determination of no reasonable cause under §1608.10(a) and will advise the respondent of its right under section 713(b)(1) of title VII to rely on the conciliation agreement.

(b) Reliance on these guidelines. In addition, if the affirmative action plan or program has been adopted in good faith reliance on these Guidelines, the provisions of section 713(b)(1) of title VII and of §1608.10(b), of this part, may be asserted by the respondent.

return arrow Back to Top

§1608.7   Affirmative action plans or programs under State or local law.

Affirmative action plans or programs executed by agreement with State or local government agencies, or by order of State or local government agencies, whether entered by consent or after contested proceedings, under statutes or ordinances described in title VII, will be reviewed by the Commission in light of the similar purposes of title VII and such statutes and ordinances. Accordingly, the Commission will process title VII complaints involving such affirmative action plans or programs under this section.

(a) Procedures for review of plans or programs. If adherence to an affirmative action plan or program executed pursuant to a State statute or local ordinance described in title VII is the basis of a complaint filed under title VII or is alleged to be the justification for an action which is challenged under Title VII, the Commission will investigate to determine:

(1) Whether the affirmative action plan or program was executed by an employer, labor organization, or person subject to the statute or ordinance,

(2) Whether the agreement was approved by an appropriate official of the State or local government, and

(3) Whether adherence to the plan or program was the basis of the complaint or justification.

(1) Previously approved plans or programs. If the Commission finds the facts described in paragraph (a) of this section, the Commission will, in accordance with the “substantial weight” provisions of section 706 of the Act, find no reasonable cause where appropriate.

(2) Plans or programs not previously approved. If the plan or program has not been approved by an appropriate official of the State or local government, the Commission will follow the procedure of §1608.10 of these Guidelines. If the Commission finds that the plan or program does conform to these Guidelines, the Commission will make a determination of no reasonable cause as set forth in §1608.10(a).

(b) Reliance on these guidelines. In addition, if the affirmative action plan or program has been adopted in good faith reliance on these Guidelines, the provisions of section 713(b)(1) and §1608.10(b), of this part, may be asserted by the respondent.

return arrow Back to Top

§1608.8   Adherence to court order.

Parties are entitled to rely on orders of courts of competent jurisdiction. If adherence to an Order of a United States District Court or other court of competent jurisdiction, whether entered by consent or after contested litigation, in a case brought to enforce a Federal, State, or local equal employment opportunity law or regulation, is the basis of a complaint filed under title VII or is alleged to be the justification for an action which is challenged under title VII, the Commission will investigate to determine:

(a) Whether such an Order exists and

(b) Whether adherence to the affirmative action plan which is part of the Order was the basis of the complaint or justification.

If the Commission so finds, it will issue a determination of no reasonable cause. The Commission interprets title VII to mean that actions taken pursuant to the direction of a Court Order cannot give rise to liability under title VII.

return arrow Back to Top

§1608.9   Reliance on directions of other government agencies.

When a charge challenges an affirmative action plan or program, or when such a plan or program is raised as justification for an employment decision, and when the plan or program was developed pursuant to the requirements of a Federal or State law or regulation which in part seeks to ensure equal employment opportunity, the Commission will process the charge in accordance with §1608.10(a). Other agencies with equal employment opportunity responsibilities may apply the principles of these Guidelines in the exercise of their authority.

return arrow Back to Top

§1608.10   Standard of review.

(a) Affirmative action plans or programs not specifically relying on these guidelines. If, during the investigation of a charge of discrimination filed with the Commission, a respondent asserts that the action complained of was taken pursuant to an in accordance with a plan or program of the type described in these Guidelines, the Commission will determine whether the assertion is true, and if so, whether such a plan or program conforms to the requirements of these guidelines. If the Commission so finds, it will issue a determination of no reasonable cause and, where appropriate, will state that the determination constitutes a written interpretation or opinion of the Commission under section 713(b)(1). This interpretation may be relied upon by the respondent and asserted as a defense in the event that new charges involving similar facts and circumstances are thereafter filed against the respondent, which are based on actions taken pursuant to the affirmative action plan or program. If the Commission does not so find, it will proceed with the investigation in the usual manner.

(b) Reliance on these guidelines. If a respondent asserts that the action taken was pursuant to and in accordance with a plan or program which was adopted or implemented in good faith, in conformity with, and in reliance upon these Guidelines, and the self analysis and plan are in writing, the Commission will determine whether such assertion is true. If the Commission so finds, it will so state in the determination of no reasonable cause and will advise the respondent that:

(1) The Commission has found that the respondent is entitled to the protection of section 713(b)(1) of title VII; and

(2) That the determination is itself an additional written interpretation or opinion of the Commission pursuant to section 713(b)(1).

return arrow Back to Top

§1608.11   Limitations on the application of these guidelines.

(a) No determination of adequacy of plan or program. These Guidelines are applicable only with respect to the circumstances described in §1608.1(d), of this part. They do not apply to, and the section 713(b)(1) defense is not available for the purpose of, determining the adequacy of an affirmative action plan or program to eliminate discrimination. Whether an employer who takes such affirmative action has done enough to remedy such discrimination will remain a question of fact in each case.

(b) Guidelines inapplicable in absence of affirmative action. Where an affirmative action plan or program does not exist, or where the plan or program is not the basis of the action complained of, these Guidelines are inapplicable.

(c) Currency of plan or program. Under section 713(b)(1), persons may rely on the plan or program only during the time when it is current. Currency is related to such factors as progress in correcting the conditions disclosed by the self analysis. The currency of the plan or program is a question of fact to be determined on a case by case basis. Programs developed under Executive Order 11246, as amended, will be deemed current in accordance with Department of Labor regulations at 41 CFR chapter 60, or successor orders or regulations.

return arrow Back to Top

§1608.12   Equal employment opportunity plans adopted pursuant to section 717 of title VII.

If adherence to an Equal Employment Opportunity Plan, adopted pursuant to section 717 of title VII, and approved by an appropriate official of the U.S. Civil Service Commission, is the basis of a complaint filed under title VII, or is alleged to be the justification for an action under title VII, these Guidelines will apply in a manner similar to that set forth in §1608.5. The Commission will issue regulations setting forth the procedure for processing such complaints.

return arrow Back to Top