On occasion there are questions about what a specific word or term means in the context of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Diversity. This Glossary is intended to serve as a tool which will assist you in understanding some of the Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Non-discrimination terms most frequently associated with the Diversity Officers work. It is not intended to be all encompassing.

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Accessibility: The absence of access barriers. When a site, building or portion thereof complies with ADA guidelines.

ADA see Americans with Disabilities Act

Adverse Impact (effect): When certain personnel or program eligibility policies (e.g., word-of-mouth recruiting, diploma requirements, intelligence tests, minimum height requirements, disproportionate terminations or layoffs) have the effect of denying employment, advancement or services to Protected Class Members.

Adverse Treatment: An action that would in any way deprive an individual of employment, educational opportunity or services which they were otherwise eligible to receive or negatively affect his or her status.

Affirmative Action: The development of a program through which an employer acts to affirm the contributions that a diverse workforce can bring to a work environment. This is accomplished by taking specific steps to identify, recruit, hire and/or develop for advancement, persons who are identified as part of specific protected classes. Thus, an employer demonstrates its willingness to remedy past acts of discrimination against specific groups by developing goals and timetables, and mechanisms through which success is measured, with an ultimate goal of achieving a diverse workforce.

Affirmative Action Manager see Diversity Officer

Affirmative Action Plan: The document, required by Executive Order No. 526, from appointing authorities of agencies which provides the method for implementation of Affirmative Action.

Affirmative Action Program: The implementation of an Affirmative Action Plan.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Public Law 101-336: Legislation that gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, sex, national origin and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunication.

Amplified Telephone: A telephone, which is equipped with a sound amplification device, such as an amplified headset or a freestanding amplifier.

Applicant Pool: Those persons who have applied for a particular position or who have applications on file from which an employee may be selected.

Assistive Listening Device: A device that enhances hearing, such as a personal system, which can be used for listening to television, attending meetings with speakers and round-table discussions. Group assistive listening systems provide listening for groups or certain individuals in groups (ex: audio loop).

Assistive Listening System see Assistive Listening Device

Audio Loop: An assistive listening system consisting of a continuous length of wire that acts as an antenna for an audio receiver system to which individual receivers can be attached. Used in conference, classroom settings by individuals who are hard of hearing.

Availability: The presence of protected class members "ready, willing and able to work" used in setting goals and determining Underutilization and Parity .

Braille: A reading method for the blind predicated on the use of a six-dot cell, using the dots in various combinations. Also, a code using short form words, letter combination abbreviations, special signs to indicate capitalization and other punctuation. To be read by touch.

Business Necessity: Justification for an otherwise prohibited employment practice based on proof that the otherwise prohibited employment practice is essential for the safety and efficiency of the business and that no reasonable alternatives with a lesser impact exist.

Chilling Effect: Maintenance by an employer of a work environment or a system of employment practices, the effect of which is to discourage Minorities, Women, Persons with Disabilities, and/or Vietnam Era Veterans from seeking employment or advancement within organization.

Civil Rights Officer see Diversity Officer

Compliance: The degree to which an employer carries out (complies with) the mandatory Affirmative Action Plan or non-discrimination clause in its contracts.

Compliance Review: Routine review of the employment practices of an employer by an agency.

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Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Office of the Americans with Disabilities Act (DOJ): The federal agency with overall responsibility for enforcement of the ADA, investigating complaints and providing technical assistance on the ADA.

Descriptive Video Service: The enhancement of a television program or movie with audio descriptions of costumes, scene information and actions not already perceived by simply listening to the audio. Descriptions are done so that they do not interfere with the program itself. (see Separate Audio Program )

Disability: A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities. (ADA)

Disabled Individual see Individual with a Disability

Disabled Veteran: A person entitled to compensation under laws administered by the Veterans Administration for disability, or a person whose discharge or release from active duty was for a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.

Discrimination: Illegal treatment of a person or group (either intentional or unintentional) based on race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, sex, marital status, or sexual preferences or political or union affiliation.

Diversity: The inclusion, integration, awareness and appreciation of various cultures within a workforce and the opportunity for the maximum utilization of individual members' talents, skills and perspectives with a view towards increasing the organization's productivity.

Diversity Director: A highly placed individual within the Secretariat who has the authority and responsibility to implement the Secretariat's Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity/Diversity Plans.

Diversity Officer: A highly placed individual within the Agency who has the authority and responsibility to implement the Agency's Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity/Diversity Plans.

DOJ see Department of Justice

Equal Opportunity: An organizations' effort to ensure that all personnel and service programs, policies and practices will be formulated and conducted in a manner which will ensure equal access for all people and prevent discrimination. As part of this effort organizations will ensure that employment and service provision policies will be based solely on the individual eligibility, merit or fitness of applicants, employees and recipients of services for jobs and services without regard to race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, sex, marital status, affectional or sexual preferences or political or union affiliation.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): Independent federal agency created by title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Responsible for administering Title VII, EEOC may bring suit, subpoena witnesses, issue guidelines which have the force of law, render decisions, provide technical assistance to complainants and others. The EEOC, which does not conduct routine compliance reviews, investigates complaints of discrimination in employment and finding probable cause attempts to achieve conciliation agreements and may bring a failed conciliation to court of law.

Executive Order: A written instrument promulgated by the President of the United States or Governor of an individual state, which has the force of law.

Goals: A numerical objective, fixed realistically, in terms of the number of vacancies expected, and the number of qualified applicants available in the job market.

Good Faith Efforts: A term used to describe documented, honest attempts to reach affirmative action goals.

Handicapped Person see Individual with a Disability

Having a Record of Such an Impairment: Having a history of, or having been classified as having, a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Individual with a Disability: A person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of her/his major life activities; is regarded as having such an impairment; or has a record of such an impairment.

Job Analysis: A detailed analysis of the important functions of a particular job and the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully perform the functions.

Job Categories: The grouping of job titles by related responsibilities and functions:

Official/Administrator: Occupations in which employees set policies, exercise responsibility for these policies, department heads, controllers or kindred workers.

Professional: Occupations requiring specific knowledge usually acquired through college training i.e. social workers, doctors, accountants, registered nurses, teachers and kindred workers.

Technician: Occupations requiring a combination of basic scientific or technical knowledge obtained through specialized post-secondary school education or on-the-job training such as computer operator or programmers, LPN's, medical or dental technicians, draftsmen and kindred workers.

Protective Service (Sworn/Non-sworn): Occupations in which workers are entrusted with public safety or security, i.e., guards, firefighters, correctional officers, Life guards, Crossing guards, animal control workers and kindred workers.

Office and Clerical: Occupations in which workers are responsible for internal and external communication, recording data or information and other paperwork required in an office. Includes bookkeepers, messengers, clerk-typists, payroll clerk and kindred workers.

Skilled Craft: Occupations requiring special manual skill and a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the processes involved in the work, acquired through apprenticeship or other formal training programs, mechanics and repairmen, electricians, carpenters, typesetters and kindred workers.

Service Maintenance: Occupations which result in or contribute to the comfort, convenience, hygiene or safety of the general public or which contributes to the upkeep and care of buildings, or grounds of public property includes chauffeurs, laundry operatives, custodial personnel and construction laborers.

Labor Force Parity see Workforce Parity

Labor Market Area: The geographical area in which an employer can reasonably recruit persons for employment. The "labor market area" will generally be the SMSA for which census and other employment data is available.

Large Print: Any print that is 14 point type or larger.

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Major Life Activity: One of many functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, thinking, speaking, breathing, learning and working.

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD): The state agency charged with responsibility for enforcing federal and state Civil Rights Laws. It investigates and decides cases of discrimination in the area of employment, housing, public accommodations, credit services and education. It also promulgates rules and regulations and monitors and assists businesses and governments in their Civil Rights compliance efforts.

Massachusetts Office on Disability : An independent state agency charged with overseeing implementation of and state compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. More generally charged with the monitoring and evaluation of the treatment of individuals with disabilities by state and local governments.


Minority: Any individual from the following racial and/or ethnic groups:
Black: Having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa or the Cape Verde Islands.

Hispanic (Latino/a): Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.

Asian or Pacific Islander: Having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands.

Native American: Having origins in any of the original peoples of North America, and maintaining cultural identification through tribal affiliations or community recognition.

MOD see Massachusetts Office on Disability

Nepotism: The practice of showing favoritism to relatives or close friends of other employees over other applicants applying for positions.

Non-Exempt Employees: Employees that are covered by minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standard Act (Wage and Hour Law).

Office for Civil Rights (OCR), U.S. OCR see Office for Civil Rights

Office for Civil Rights, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): Department of OCR with jurisdiction over any entity receiving federal assistance from HHS in enforcing regulations prohibiting discrimination because of sex, race, color, national origin (including persons with limited English proficiency), disability or religion. OCR enforces these regulations through complaint investigations, compliance reviews, pre-grant reviews and Voluntary Compliance outreach. OCR enforces prohibition of discrimination against persons with disabilities through section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the ADA, Public Services, including all activities of state and local governments relating to health and human services.

Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity (ODEO): The regulatory agency responsible for the implementation of Affirmative Action within the Executive Branch of State Government. ODEO is responsible for statistical research to support the development and implementation of programs; the development and promulgation of Affirmative Action standards and guidelines; the enforcement of standards via uniform grievance procedure; and maintenance of all required reporting systems. ODEO provides regulatory and preventive functions to enforce state government compliance with Executive Order 526. The mission of ODEO addresses the following priorities: Extending the benefits of affirmative action to minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and certified Vietnam era veterans. Supporting agencies in the achievement in the workforce of parity for protected groups through aggressive goal setting and compliance with Affirmative Action Plans. Preventing averse impacts upon protected groups during reduction-in-force. Eliminating discriminatory practices and promotes Equal Employment for all employees of, or applicants for employment in, state government.

Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity Workforce Region: An enumeration area designated by the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity for the purpose of defining parity.

Para-Professional: Occupations in which workers perform some of the duties of a professional or technician in a supportive role, which usually require less formal training. Positions such as research assistants, medical aids, recreation assistants, home health aids and kindred workers.

Parity: Equality. The ultimate goal of Affirmative Action programming by achieving the same level of representation internally as that achieved in the external workforce.

Person with a Disability see Individual with a Disability

Physical or Mental Impairment: A condition, such as contagious and non-contagious diseases and conditions such as orthopedic, visual speech and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental retardation, emotional illness, learning disabilities, HIV disease, tuberculosis, drug addiction, alcoholism, that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as thinking, walking, speaking, hearing, seeing, working, learning and breathing.

Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA): An enumeration district designated by the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for statistical purposes.

Program Accessibility: Operating programs and activities so, when viewed in their entirety, they are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. No qualified individual with a disability may be excluded from participation in, or be denied the benefits of the service, programs or activities of the Provider because of an access barrier.

Protected Class : Legally identified groups that are specifically protected by statute against discrimination. Protected class status is automatically conferred upon recognized minority group members, females, individuals with disabilities, etc., by the law. These are the same individuals who should be covered by the provider's Affirmative Action /Equal Opportunity and Programmatic Access Plan.

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Qualified Individual: A person who meets legal valid, predetermined and announced eligibility requirements. For example, a person with a disability who, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies, practices and or facilities, meets essential eligibility requirements shall be considered qualified.

Qualified Interpreter: An interpreter who is able to interpret effectively, accurately and impartially both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary. (ADA)

Readily Accessible to and Usable by: When a program, service or activity is no harder to get to and used by an individual with a disability than it would be for anyone else.

Readily Achievable: Easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense. (ADA)

Reasonable Accommodation: The modification of environments, policies, programs, schedules, requirements and or facilities to adapt to the needs and abilities of an individual with disabilities, unless it would impose undue hardship. Reasonable accommodation may include building ramps, setting up TTY telephone lines, acquiring, providing auxiliary aids or services (like amplification equipment, sign language interpreters, qualified readers, a talking computer) or modifying existing equipment and providing job restructuring, modification of work schedules, reassignments of employees and/or clients.

Regarded as Having a Disability: If a person is treated as having a disability, or if a person has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities only as a result of the attitudes of others towards such impairment then that person is considered to have a disability.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973: An act of Congress creating civil right protections for persons with disabilities in federal programs.

Relay-System: A 1-800 telephone service offered by the New England Telephone Company that enables a hearing person to speak to a deaf/hard of hearing person without a TTY. (1-800-439-2370).

Remedy: Whatever is required to "make the charging party whole," that is, whatever would have (or would not have) happened, had a violation not occurred, or, where that is not possible, money to compensate the charging party.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Section of the Act creating civil rights protections for persons with disabilities in programs receiving federal assistance.

Selection Procedures: Refers to the process for choosing the successful applicant for employment or advancement or for admission to a program.

Separate Audio Program (SAP): A device built into televisions manufactured after 1987, which permits access to a separate audio track that includes descriptive narrative along with the program's original dialogue. Utilized by individuals who are blind or visually impaired. (see Descriptive Video System ).

Sexism: The belief in the superiority of one sex over the other based on the belief that gender is the determinant of human traits and capacities.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which created a hostile, humiliating or offensive work environment, which materially interferes with the employee's ability to perform the job; submission to, or rejection of, sexual advances or requests for sexual favors which form the basis of an employment decision.

Signaler: A Signaling device equipped with a flashing light (Visual), an audio message (Audio), or movement (Motion) available with combined functions for fire, doorbell, and telephone. Could also include a bed shaker and strobe light for the bedroom or a strobe light only for the living room.

Signaling Device see Signaler

State Office for Affirmative Action (SOAA) see Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity(ODEO)

Systematic Discrimination: A pattern of discrimination that is the result of pervasive interrelated actions, policies and procedures.

Tape: Print material read onto an audiocassette tape by sighted readers to be used by blind and visually impaired individuals who cannot access print.

TTY: A telecommunication device for the deaf, consisting of a machine that employs graphic communication in the transmission of coded signals through a wire or radio communication system.

Television Caption Decoder: A unit similar to a cable converter box, that is designed to decode a signal that allows captions that are easily visible - usually white letters against a black background - and appear at the bottom of television screens. TV screens. Note: All televisions 13" or larger manufactured on or after July 1, 1993 must include a computer chip that performs the same function as that of a decoder unit.

Timetable: The time frame set for attaining measurable Goals in an affirmative action program.

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Underutilization: Having fewer protected class members in a particular job classification would be expected by their availability in the workforce or recruitment area.

Undue Burden: See Undue Hardship.

Undue Financial or Administrative Burden: A defense available to a state or an entity operating a program, service or activity for that state which relieves it of responsibility for failure to provide access when the modification needed to provide access would fundamentally alter the program, service or activity inquisition or would be so costly that it would exceed its resources.

Undue Hardship: Significant difficulty or expense when considering the nature and cost of the accommodation, the overall financial resources of the organization and the type of operations of the organization. (504).

Unlawful Employment Practice: Any policy analysis conducted by an employer to determine whether protected class members are employed in the major job categories.

Validation: The study of an employer's tests or selections standards, which proves that such tests or standards, is significant predictions of successful job performance. The study requires a large sample of applicants and must include representatives of groups suffering adversely from such standards.

Vietnam Era Veteran: A person who served on active duty for a period of more than 90 days, any part of which occurred between August 5, 1964 and May 7, 1975, and was honorably discharged or released there from. Executive Order 526 defines Vietnam Era veterans and the State's commitment to a program to promote their welfare in this state.

Workforce: The total number of persons employed.

Worforce Analysis: A detailed listing, by department or other organizational unit, of job classifications as they may appear in collective bargaining agreement or payroll records.

Worforce Parity: The percentage of protected class members in the total labor force, regardless of occupational specialty.


This information provided by the Human Resources Division .