Discrimination and Affirmative Action

Many people perceive discrimination as an immoral act. To discriminate means to choose against. As such, people are denied opportunities by virtue of their gender, race, religion or age. This is negative discrimination and as such, unethical. However, wholesome condemnation of discrimination is a one- sided affair since discrimination is not necessarily bad. In some instances it is necessary to discriminate in order to meet a certain moral standard which ensures a common good is attained. This is due to the fact that gender, race, religion or age can be vital qualification for particular jobs. In this case, discrimination is not only morally right but ethically permissible. In this essay, affirmative action is identified as the most conceivable form of positive discrimination. Affirmative action means preferring minorities to better qualified people with the aim of increasing their utilization and participation. The government of the United States through The Office of Personnel Management requires that employers, especially those within the federal agencies, to develop programs that allow for re-accommodation of ex-war soldiers into active professional careers. Such programs include DVAAP. Normally, social and economic benefits are accrued. As such, discrimination in relation to affirmative action is a moral act.

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It is common for people to refer to discrimination as an immoral act. However, this approach is shallow and one sided. In real sense, discrimination is morally proper and sometimes necessary to achieve the common good. People may frown at the idea of discriminating in terms of religion, race, gender or any other classification. However, such classification can be a necessary qualification especially in certain jobs. In regards to this, the concept of affirmative action arises. Affirmative action involves discriminating people based on a specific criterion e.g. gender, race, ability, or age, in order to meet a moral necessity. As such, affirmative action is seen as an appropriate way of controlling diversity in the work place (Braswell, Moore and Poe, 1993). Since discrimination is a moral issue it is imperative to look at affirmative action from both deontological and utilitarian points of view.

Contrary to popular opinion, affirmative action can be lead to the attainment of the greatest benefit not only for those affected by the action in question but also the entire society. Utilitarian thinkers propose a cost benefit analyses. As such, the action that ensures the greatest amount of social, economic and moral benefits to the greatest number of people is morally permissible. In hiring employees, affirmative action becomes an act of utility due to the accruing economic and social benefits. Since Affirmative action involves giving preference to minorities, attainment of social balance and well as economic benefits are accrued. Minorities are thus economically and socially empowered. Even though affirmative action comes at additional costs, the benefits outweigh the cost by far. Similarly, critics also argue that affirmative action is in violation of people’s rights. As explained earlier, affirmative action disregards the best qualified people with regard for people who meet certain qualification threshold such as age, race religion, or gender for the sake of attainment social-economic of balance. This implies that certain rights have to be denied in order to attain morally acceptable standards (Hettinger, 1987). For instance, despite the fact that people have the right to marry whoever they want, the right to marry ones’ sister or brother, a minor or a person of the same sex is denied for the sake of the common good. Similarly, the right of employer to hire the most qualified people can be denied especially to meet the requirement of certain affirmative action programs. As explained earlier, this is for the attainment of the common good. As such, affirmative is normatively justifiable.

With regard to the above assertion, a number of affirmative action programs are morally justifiable. Some of these programs include the ‘Disabled Veterans Affirmative Action Program’ (DVAAP). This program is part of the ‘Affirmative Action Program for the Hiring, Placement and Advancement of Persons with Disabilities’ and is ratified by the ‘Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974’. The purpose of this program is to allow for re-accommodation of war veterans who have been excused from military service as a result of disabilities that makes it impossible for them to continue servicing in the military. The Office of Personnel Management requires that federal agencies have programs that give preference to disabled ex-war veterans in terms of employment opportunities. Those who qualify for this program must be at least 30% disabled. Additionally, there exists an element of positive discrimination within the program, with preference given to disabled veteran from minorities groups as well as women (U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, 2004).

DVAAP meets the affirmative action requirements which aim at reducing historical gender and race based negative discrimination against minorities in employment, without necessarily creating quotas (Muhl, 1999). This is attained through internal advertising which target disabled veterans for career advancement based on merit. DVAAP target areas within which disabled veterans are under utilized and proposes ways through which their participation and utilization can be increased. Other affirmative action programs include Walmart Glass Ceiling Review Resolution which aims at promoting the occupation of top management positions by women. Under Walmart Glass Ceiling Review Resolution, women are targeted to be placed in line jobs, which will make it easy for vertical career progression (Social Funds, 2000). Unlike the Walmart Glass Ceiling Review Resolution, DVAAP is seen as a compensation program for ex soldiers who served in the military. Furthermore, DVAAP is a government effort to reaccommodate disabled soldiers back into mainstream society. Additionally the program does not necessarily target career progression of disabled ex-soldier but their increased participation and utilization in the professional world. This makes DVAAP uniquely different from other affirmative programs.

Under DVAAP, recruitment managers especially those within the federal agencies are required to develop strategies to increase the utilization of disabled ex- war veterans. This is attained through accelerated utilization by recruitment as well as upward promotion with based on expertise. In effect, this increases the number of disabled soldiers in administrative and technical positions within the federal agencies (U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, 2004). This implies that deontological rights of recruitment managers to hire the most qualified employees are limited. However, the denial of such rights is ethical since it is for the attainment of the greater good. Under DVAAP, disabled ex soldiers especially women and minorities are given preference in internal recruitment. This is aimed at eliminating age old negative gender and minorities based discrimination within the employment sector.

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The program comes at an added financial and technical cost. The government has to provide additional funds to federal agencies to facilitate the program. Furthermore, federal agencies have to forego technical expertise from the most suitable candidates in favor of disabled ex soldiers. However, the social and economic benefits accrued far more outweigh the cost. As indicated earlier DVAAP is part of government effort to compensate ex-war veterans honorably discharged from military service due to career inhibiting disabilities (U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, 2004). As such, through the program the government takes the moral obligation to ensure that Americans who have sacrificed and suffered irreparable injuries are compensated and re-accommodated back into the mainstream society. Additionally, since women and minorities injured during war face increased societal discrimination, the government recognizes the need to utilize their uninhibited skills. As such, these soldiers are given the opportunity to serve the nation, at the same time accruing economic benefits in terms of salaries earned. DVAAP thus ensures that such people do not become economic and social liabilities to the county and their families. The American economy benefits since these people are economically productive. DVAAP also reduces the ex-war veterans’ dependency on family and friends for basic needs. As such, families of ex solders accrue benefits since their economic burden is reduced. Additionally, the soldiers themselves benefit since they are able to gain access to gainful employment and thus become economically productive, thus attaining economic independent.

With regards to DVAAP, discrimination is normatively ethical since it is an act of utility. Furthermore, the American government takes the moral duty to rehabilitate disabled ex-war veterans who would otherwise be discriminated and under utilized. This is coupled with denial of the rights of employers to hire the most qualified candidates in preference to the minorities. Regardless of the cost of implementing DVAAP, social, economic as well as moral benefits are accrued to the majority of people affected by this act.

Reference List

Braswell, M., Moore, G., and Poe, S. (1993). Affirmative action: an assessment of its continuing role in employment discrimination policy. In Ottensmeyer, E. and McCarthy, G. (eds.), Ethics in the workplace. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Hettinger, E. (1987). What is wrong with reverse discrimination? In Hoffman, W. and Frederick, R. (eds.), Business ethics: Readings and cases in corporate morality. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Muhl, C. (1999). Affirmative action requirements. Web.

Social Funds. (2000). Glass Ceiling Still Unshattered. Web.

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U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. (2004). Personnel management manual. Web.

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