Equal opportunity employment refers to the employer’s approach to ensure the practice of being fair and impartial in the employment process. The term “Equal Opportunity Employment” was first given by President Lyndon B. Johnson when he signed Executive Order 11246 which was created to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of race, sex, creed, religion, color, or national origin. The scope of the order also covered the discrimination on the basis of the minority status.
Discrimination refers to any kind of prejudice, biases or favoritism on the basis of disability, race, age, sex, sexuality, pregnancy, Marital status in employment. No person should be treated less favourably or underprivileged than any other on the basis of the specified issues above. Many countries (like SA) have already implemented Equal Opportunity Act, making it against the law to treat anybody unfairly.
Due to the globalisation and the growing size of the organisations, the diversity in the workforce is increasing i.e. people from diverse backgrounds, educational background, age groups, race, gender, abilities etc. come together to work for one organisation and pursue common objectives. So, to be competitive and successful, it is the responsibility of the employer to create an equality-based and discrimination-free working environment and practices.
Equal opportunity requires treating people equally and fairly irrespective of their race, religion, sex, age, disability etc. Giving women an equal treatment and access to opportunities at the workplace. No employee should be ill-treated or harassed by the employer or other employees on the basis of any discrimination.
Equal Employment Opportunity principles help to realise and respect the actual worth of the individual on the basis of his knowledge, skills, abilities and merit. And the policy should cover all the employees of an organisation whether permanent or temporary, contractual etc. The basic purpose of the equal employment opportunity is to ensure:
1. To give fair access to the people of all development opportunities.
2. To create a fair organisation, industry and society.
3. To encourage and give disadvantaged or disabled people a fair chance to grow with the society.
Thus, equal employment opportunity should provide equal access to all available jobs, training, and promotional opportunities, similar benefits and services to everyone apply all policies and practices consistently to applicants and staff. There should not be differentiation among applicants or employees on the basis of any aforesaid discriminatory factors.