Affirmative Action - A process in which employers identify problem areas in the employment of protected class members, set goals and take positive steps to ensure equal employment opportunities of a protected class where they are underrepresented in an organization in relation to their availability in the labor markets from which recruiting occurs.

Affirmative Action Plan - A plan that identifies problem areas in the employment of protected-class members and sets goals and actions to overcome those problems.

Availability Analysis - An analysis that identifies the number of protected-class members available to work in the appropriate labor markets in given jobs.

Bias - A tendency or inclination that prevents objectivity.

Business Necessity - A practice necessary for the safe and efficient operation of an organization.

Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) - Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that employers may discriminate on the basis of sex, religion, or national origin if the characteristic can be justified as a legitimate occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business.

Covered Veterans:
Vietnam Era Veteran – a person who (1) served on active duty for a period of more than 180 days, any part of which occurred between August 5, 1964 and May 7, 1975, and was discharged or released with other than a dishonorable discharge; (2) was discharged or released from active duty for a service connected disability if any part of such active duty was performed between August 5, 1964 and May 7, 1975; or (3) served on active duty for more than 180 days and served in the Republic of Vietnam between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.

Special Disabled Veteran – a person who is entitled to compensation under laws administered by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for a disability rated at 30 percent or more; or, rated at 10 or 20 percent, if it has been determined that the individual has a serious employment disability; or, a person who was discharged or released from active duty because of a service-connected disability.

Qualified Special Disabled Veteran – A special disabled veteran who satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education and other job-related requirements of the employment position such veteran holds or desires, and who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of such position.

Other Protected Veteran – a person who served on active duty during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized, under laws administered by the Department of Defense.

Recently Separated Veteran – any veteran during the one-year period beginning on the date of such veteran’s discharge or release from active duty.

Culture - The distinctive body of customs, knowledge, beliefs, and morals, laws, habits, and social institutions that characterize each separate society.

Discrimination - Occurs when individuals having a common characteristic such as age, ancestry, color, disability, national origin, race, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation or veteran status are denied equal privilege or treatment.

Disparate Impact - Disparate impact occurs when employment decisions work to the disadvantage of protected class members, whether or not there is discriminatory intent.

Disparate Treatment - Disparate treatment occurs when protected class members are treated differently from others, whether or not there is discriminatory intent.

Diversity - A broad concept that values all people equally, regardless of their differences.

Due Process - The opportunity for individuals to explain and defend their actions against charges of misconduct or other reasons.

Equal Employment Opportunity - Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) is a broad concept holding that individuals should have equal treatment in all employment-related actions.

Essential Job Functions - The fundamental job duties of the employment position that an individual with a disability holds or desires.

Ethnicity - A group classification in which members share a unique social and cultural heritage passed on from one generation to the next. Involves customs, language, religion, and other cultural factors.

Executive Order - An order issued by the President of the United States to provide direction to government departments on a specific issue or area.

Glass Ceiling - Discriminatory practices that have prevented women and other protected-class members from advancing to executive level positions.

Harassment - Conduct of any nature which has the purpose or effect of interfering unreasonably with an individual's work or academic performance or creates an offensive, hostile, or intimidating working or learning environment.

Person with a Disability - Someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits that person in some major life activities, who has a record of such and impairment or who is regarded as having such an impairment.

Prejudice - An irrational and negative attitude directed at a group or individual because of physical or cultural characteristics; thinking ill of others without sufficient warrant. Usually the attitude is not well founded and it has a negative cast.

Protected Classes - Protected classes are composed of individuals identified for protection under equal employment laws and regulations. Many of the protected classes historically have been subjected to discrimination. Bases for protection identified by various federal laws are:

  • Race, ethnic origin, color (African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans)
  • Gender (women)
  • Age (over 40)
  • Individuals with disabilities
  • Vietnam-era veterans
  • Religion

Race - A group of people related by common descent or heredity.


Race/Ethnic Group Definition
American Indian or Alaskan Native (All persons having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintain a cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.)

Asian or Pacific Islanders (All persons having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands. The areas include, for example, China, Japan, Korea, India, the Philippine Islands, and Samoa.)

Black (not of Hispanic origin) (All persons having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.)

Hispanic (All persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.)

White (not of Hispanic origin) (All persons having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East. )

Racism - The discrimination against a person or group solely because of their race. Any political doctrine that claims the superiority of one race over another.

Reasonable Accommodation - A modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that enables a qualified individual with a disability to have equal employment opportunity.

Recruiting - The process of generating a pool of qualified applicants for organizational jobs.

Retaliation - Retaliation is when an employer takes punitive actions against individuals who exercise their legal rights. Employers are prohibited by equal employment opportunity laws from retaliating against individuals who file discrimination complaints or participate in an investigation.

Right-to-Sue Letter - A letter issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that notifies a complainant that she or he has 90 days in which to file a personal suit in federal court.

Sexual Harassment - Actions that are sexual in nature, are unwanted, and subject the employee/student to adverse employment/learning conditions or create a hostile work/learning environment.

Undue Hardship - Conditions created when making a reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities that imposes significant difficulty or expense on an employer.

Utilization Analysis - An analysis that identifies the number of protected-class members employed and the types of jobs they hold in the organization.


Affirmative Action Office

Affirmative Action Office
328 Boucke, University Park, PA 16802
Phone: (814) 863-0471

Questions regarding web issues, please contact Tanya Pasko,

Web page last modified February 20, 2014