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EAD Glossary - 2013

The following glossary is an introduction and resource provided by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research's Equity and Diversity Committee for the purpose of promoting a common understanding among those who work towards inclusive excellence for employees of UW-Madison. Please feel free to make suggestions by emailing Updated Sept. 2013

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What is meant by equity?

Equity is the guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all students, faculty, and staff, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist equality in the provision of effective opportunities to all groups.

While fairness of salary is an important part of equity, our focus is on fairness: how employees are treated in the workplace and creating inclusive environments that provide opportunities for all individuals through recruitment, retention, climate, mentoring and networking initiatives.

What is meant by diversity?

Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. It is all-inclusive and recognizes everyone and every group as part of the diversity that should be valued. A broad definition includes not only race, ethnicity, and gender-the groups that most often come to mind when the term "diversity" is used-but also age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. It also involves different ideas, perspectives, and values.



The extent to which a facility is readily approachable and usable by individuals with disabilities, particularly such areas as the personnel office, work site and public areas.


The process of adjusting an employer's requirements for application to and/or employment in a position in order to ensure that disabled applicants or employees receive equal employment opportunity.

Achievement Gap

A term used to describe a persistent trend in the U.S. educational system in which white students achieve greater academic success than students of color. This term can also refer to the gap between girls' and boys' academic achievement.


The process of learning and incorporating the language, values, beliefs, and behaviors that make up a distinct culture. This concept is not to be confused with assimilation, where an individual, family, or group may give up certain aspects of its culture in order to adapt to that of their new host country.

Adoption Leave

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Adverse Impact

In 1978, the Civil Service Commission, the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, and the Equal Opportunity Commission jointly adopted the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures to establish uniform standards for employers. According to the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures, "adverse impact is a substantially different rate of selection in hiring, promotion or other employment decision which works to the disadvantage of members of a race, sex or ethnic group." Under Federal equal employment opportunity law the use of any selection procedure that has an adverse impact on any race, sex or ethnic group is discriminatory unless the procedure has been properly validated, or the use of the procedure is otherwise justified under Federal law. A "substantially different" rate is typically defined in government enforcement or Title VII litigation settings using the 80% Rule, statistical significance tests, and/or practical significance tests.

Affinity Group

Also known as employee networks, or employee‐resource groups, affinity groups are groups of people who share a common interest. These entities can support organizational and business objectives by serving as liaisons between a company and the community.

Affirmative Action

Proactive measures for remedying the effect of past discrimination and ensuring the implementation of equal employment and educational opportunities. Affirmative action is undertaken only for certain protected groups of individuals: Females, blacks, Latinos/Hispanics, Asians, American Indians, people with disabilities, and covered veterans.

Affirmative Action Program

The action-oriented program designed to ensure equal employment opportunity beyond mere non-discrimination. It documents numeric goals; responsibilities; and recruitment, promotion, selection, training and other programs relevant to the particular workforce priorities, recruitment pools, and employment practices of an employer. Goals are based upon the difference between the availability of these groups in the population and their actual representation in the organization. Affirmative Action does not necessarily involve the imposition of quotas. Often affirmative action involves the setting of goals and/ or targets.

African American or Black

As an affirmation of identity, the choice of terminology is a matter of personal preference. Emerging at different times in history, both terms reflect the continually shifting nature of identity in relation to socio-political currents. In the U.S., the descendants of Africans have preferred Colored, then Negro, followed by Afro American, and later, Black then African American to describe their common heritage, history, culture, and politics. Since the advent of the Black Power movement of the 60s, Black has come into popularity as an assertion of the pride and empowerment. Nevertheless, the vernacular colored and Negro survives in limited contexts where it evokes positive, historic associations, as in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Negro National Anthem.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act

The 1967 act prohibits employment discrimination against persons 40 years of age or older.


Discrimination against individuals because of their age; often based on stereotypes (e.g. senior citizens are not able to perform tasks such as driving, or that all young people are irresponsible).

Alaska Natives

Aboriginal peoples of Alaska, including American Indians, Eskimo, and Aluet peoples. Eskimo people, also called Inuit, are racially distinct from American Indians and are more closely related to peoples of East Asia.


The United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services define an alien as "any person not a citizen or national of the United States." However, many people take offense at the use of this term because it places emphasis on difference. Preferable terms might be "immigrant" or "refugee," and for those who have entered the United States illegally, "undocumented workers" as opposed to "illegal aliens."


A term that refers to individuals born in Asian countries whose biological father is a U.S. citizen. The Amerasian Act of 1982 granted permission to certain Amerasian individuals to immigrate to the United States. Those who qualified had to have been born in Cambodia, Korea, Laos, Thailand, or Vietnam after December 31, 1950, and fathered by a U.S. citizen. Family members such as children, spouses or parents, and guardians of the individual were also granted entry. Amerasian is not synonymous to Asian American or Eurasian.

American Indian

A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community attachment.

American Indian Movement (AIM)

AIM was founded in 1968 by Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, and George Miller, three American Indian activists who brought together other activists in their communities to combat issues such as police brutality, slum housing, high unemployment, the neglect of Indian education, discrimination and the treatment by the government. The Movement also focused on the importance of protecting treaty rights and preserving the spirituality and culture of Natives peoples.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Passed by Congress in 1990, this act requires that "reasonable accommodation" be made in public accommodations, including the workplace, for individuals with disabilities. (See EEOC)

Anglo or Anglo-Saxon

Of or related to the descendants of Germanic peoples (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes) who reigned in Britain until the Norman conquest in 1066. Often refers to white English-speaking persons of European descent in England or North America, not of Hispanic or French origin.


Hatred of or prejudice against Jewish people based on their religion or ethnic identity.


An institutional system of racial segregation and subjugation in which whites exercise political, economic, and legal discrimination on racial/ethnic minority groups. Although racial segregation had been enforced for decades prior, the official policy of apartheid was practiced in the Republic of South Africa from 1948 until 1994, when black South Africans were first given the opportunity to partake in a democratic vote, resulting in the election of Nelson Mandela, a social activist and political leader who had been imprisoned for 27 years.


Of or relating to the cultures or people that have ethnic roots in the following Arabic‐speaking lands: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. "Arab" is not synonymous with "Muslim." Arabs practice many religions, including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and others.


A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Asian American

An Asian American is an American citizen of Asian descent. The U.S. Census Bureau defines "Asian" as "people having origins in any of the original peoples of Asia or the Indian subcontinent. It includes people who indicated their race or races as 'Asian,' 'Indian,' 'Chinese,' 'Filipino,' 'Korean,' 'Japanese,' 'Vietnamese,' or 'Other Asian.'"


The process whereby an individual of a minority group gradually adopts characteristics of the majority culture. This adoption results in the loss of characteristics of one's native culture, such as language, culinary tastes, interpersonal communication, gender roles, and style of dress. Some individuals of immigrant communities take offense to the notion that all immigrants should "assimilate" to U.S. culture, because it implies that they must give up some of who they are to become "Americans." Instead, many immigrant communities assert the notion of biculturalism, which enables them to acculturate to the U.S. culture while maintaining characteristics of their native culture.


Back Pay

Compensation for past wage and benefit losses caused by discriminatory employment practices or procedures. Lost wages include overtime, incentive pay, raises, bonuses. Economic loss includes compensatory damages.

Bargaining Agreement

Also referred to as collective bargaining agreement and sometimes known as labor-management agreement or union contract. These terms refer to an agreement between an employer and an employee union, establishing wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment for employees in the bargaining unit represented by the union.


A preference for or tendency toward a particular viewpoint or outcome. Bias stems from the internalization and institutionalization of particular values, beliefs, and assumptions. Not to be confused with bigotry, which is motivated by ill-intent, bias can co-exist unconsciously with good intentions, but nevertheless result in outcomes that are inclined to favor some groups over others.


A person who is bicultural effectively navigates within and between two cultures.


Intolerance of cultures, religions, races, ethnicities, or political beliefs that differ from one's own.


Of or related to more than one race. Biracial individuals may choose to identify with only one race, especially if they find that they are more readily accepted by one group than another. Historically, biracial individuals who had one black parent and one white parent were considered black and were not acknowledged by the white community.

Bi-sexual, Bisexual

A bisexual is one who has significant sexual and romantic attractions to members of both the same and opposite sex.

Black or African American

See African American or Black

Bumping Rights

Rights of an employee to displace another employee due to a layoff or other employment action as defined in a collective bargaining agreement or other binding agreement.

Business Necessity

A defense available to an employer in a discrimination lawsuit. The employer must demonstrate that the practice or policy in question has a demonstrable relationship to the requirements of the job in question.


Campus Climate

Campus climate is a measure-real or perceived-of the campus environment as it relates to interpersonal, academic, and professional interactions.


A term adopted by some Mexican Americans to demonstrate pride in their heritage, born out of the national Chicano Movement that was politically aligned with the Civil Rights Movement to end racial oppression and social inequalities of Mexican Americans. Chicano pertains to the particular experience of Mexican-descended individuals living in the United States. Not all Mexican Americans identify as Chicano.

Chicano Movement

Mexican American individuals and organizations across the country united for the common purpose of increasing educational opportunities, workers rights for farm laborers, land allocation, and resources to Mexican American communities.

Civil Rights

The legal rights guaranteed equally to all citizens.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

Prohibits discrimination in programs receiving federal funds. Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race or national origin in federally-financially assisted programs. Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex (including pregnancy).

Civil Rights Act of 1991

Amends Civil Rights Act of 1964 by adding the protected category of "disability" and provides for appropriate remedies for intentional discrimination and unlawful harassment in the workplace. The 1991 Act does not affect court-ordered remedies, affirmative action, or conciliation agreements, which are in accordance with the law.

Civil Rights Movement

Originating in the 1960s, the civil right movement was made up of a set of political movements and organizations that fought for racial equality and rose up against all forms of institutional racism that perpetuated political, economic, and educational disparities within their communities. It served as the catalyst for the restructuring of policies and practices that had legally enforced racial segregation, subjugation, and discrimination.


Definitions of class vary across disciplines. A comprehensive working definition by Yeskel and Leondar-Wright is that "class is 'a relative social ranking based on income, wealth, status, and/or power.'"


Biased attitudes and beliefs that result in, and help to justify, unfair treatment of individuals or groups because of their socioeconomic grouping. "Classism" can also be expressed as public policies and institutional practices that prevent people from breaking out of poverty rather than ensuring equal economic, social, and educational opportunity.


Closet, closeted and "in the closet" are adjectives for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people who have not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity and aspects thereof, including sexual identity and sexual behavior. It can also be used to refer to the concealment of other marginalized identities out of shame or fear of retribution. (See Coming Out, Out)


The practice of combining or switching between elements of more than one language in verbal and written communication. Effective communication is the primary goal when code-switching. Originally a term understood in relation to second language learning (that is, switching between English and a second language such as Spanish), it is also used to describe switching between "standard" English and non-standard dialects or traditions.

Collective Bargaining Agreement

See Bargaining Agreement.


The claim not to see racial distinctions. Critics of this ideology argue that in the U.S. context the refusal to see race denies an often-important aspect of personal and collective identity as well as the socio-historical forces that structure disparate outcomes based on race. Accordingly, one must see race and understand its impact in order to correct the effects of past and present racial oppression.

Coming Out

Coming out refers to coming out of the closet. The process through which lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and transsexual people recognize their sexual preferences and differences and integrate this knowledge into their personal and social lives, or the act of this disclosure to others.

Corporate Culture

A system of informal rules that guide how people behave; the basic assumptions that a group has invented or developed about how it operates; the practices, values, and the taken-for-granted ways of seeing the world.


Relating to more than one culture. Often refers to practices that deal with more than one culture and incorporate the belief and value systems of the cultures involved.

Cultural Competency

Cultural competence refers to an ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures. Cultural competence comprises four components: (a) Awareness of one's own cultural worldview, (b) Attitude towards cultural differences, (c) Knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and (d) Cross-cultural skills. Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures. Cultural competence is a developmental process that evolves over an extended period (Martin and Vaughn, Cultural Competence).


While the definition of culture varies within and among academic disciplines, a comprehensive definition is that it denotes the way of life of a people, encompassing their ideas, values, beliefs, norms, language, traditions, and artifacts. Institutional cultures reflect the dominant culture of the society of which they are a part. Culture is complex and dynamic, and can change over time. (See Bicultural).

Culture of Poverty

The concept that the conditions of poverty (e.g., unemployment, out‐of‐wedlock births, teen pregnancies, welfare dependency, etc.) creates within individuals and groups a socially pathological state of mind that perpetuates these same conditions and eventually increases the number of dependents on the state. The culture of poverty concept assumes that there is a social, pathological or cultural deficiency inherent to members of certain groups that make them prone to being poor which may make the phrase offensive. The concept has been widely criticized.


Daily Indignity

Refers to the experiences of individuals and groups brought about by behaviors of members of the majority or dominant culture who may willingly or inadvertently assert their unearned privilege or power in a manner that offends, discriminates against, or subjugates other individuals.

Direct Threat

In relation to the The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is a significant health or safety risk posed by an individual to self or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level through reasonable accommodation.


To treat differently; to differentiate or discern between two or more people or things (racial or sexual discrimination means to treat people differently based on their race or sex). As a term of law, it refers specifically to the illegal denial of equal rights and protections based on such characteristics as gender, race, ethnicity, and disability.


Disability is a physical, mental, or cognitive impairment or condition that qualifies under federal and state disability nondiscrimination laws for special accommodations to ensure programmatic and physical access.

Disparate Treatment

A theory or category of employment discrimination. Disparate treatment discrimination may be found when an individual or group is treated differently because of its race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap or veteran status. An intent to discriminate is NOT necessary in this type of employment discrimination, and may be shown by direct evidence or inferentially by statistical, anecdotal and/or comparative evidence.


Disparities commonly refer to group differences in educational, health, economic, legal and other outcomes. Disparities highlight the salience of social group membership in structuring privilege and inequality. Disparities stem from intentional discrimination as well as from unconscious bias. (See Achievement Gap, Bias, Discrimination, Disparate Treatment, Privilege)


Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)

The right to have an equal opportunity to be hired or promoted and in all terms and conditions of employment without regard to seven prohibited factors: race, sex, color, religion, national origin, age (40 and older), and disability.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Congress established the EEOC in 1965 to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting illegal discrimination in employment. The Federal Government's premier civil rights agency is also charged with the enforcement of the Equal Pay Act (EPA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA)

The EPA provides employers may not pay unequal wages to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment.

Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)

Written in 1923 by Alice Paul, suffragist leader and founder of the National Woman's Party, as a means of guaranteeing "equal justice under law" to women as well as men, the ERA has been introduced into every session of Congress since, but has failed to be ratified by the required number of states.


Dealing fairly with all concerned without bias or favoritism; equal does not necessarily mean "the same." Equal treatment that may or may not result in equitable outcomes. (See Equity)


A person who voluntarily and or legally migrates from one country to another. Emigrant and emigration refer to the country from which the migration is made. An Irishman who migrates to the U.S. is an emigrant of Ireland and an immigrant to the U.S.

Environmental Racism

The geographic relationship between environmental degradation and the location of minority or low income communities. Environmental racism may reflect intentional practices, but may be the unintended consequence of a set of institutionalized policies.


The practice of categorizing an entire group based on assumptions about what constitutes the "essence" of that group (e.g., assuming that women are better nurturers due to something that is innate in their being). Essentialism prevents individuals from remaining open to individual differences within groups.

Essential Job Functions, Marginal Job Functions

Fundamental job duties of an employment position. The concept of essential functions is a key element of identifying whether, through reasonable accommodation, an individual with a disability that is either applying for the position or currently holding it can perform the essential functions of the position. The essential functions of a position are those duties that exist as the very purpose for the position, and which simply must be performed by the individual holding the position (other than for, perhaps, relatively limited periods of time). Essential functions must be distinguished from marginal functions, the latter consisting of duties associated with the position that may be eliminated or redistributed to other employees if an accommodation so requires.

Ethnic Group, Ethnicity

A group of people who share a sense of themselves as having a common heritage, ancestry, or shared historical past, which may be tied to identifiable physical, cultural, linguistic, and/or religious characteristics. Ethnicity should not be used interchangeably with race, as illustrated by the fact that Hispanics, designated an ethnic group in the U.S., may nevertheless be of any race.

Ethnicity is the shared sense of a common heritage, ancestry, or historical past among an ethnic group. The U.S. Census Bureau defines ethnicity or origin as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person's parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States.


A belief in the superiority of one's own race/ethnicity or culture. Ethnocentrism should not be confused with racism, which is structured on the basis of race and not ethnicity.


Facially Neutral/Facially Neutral Employment Practice

A facially neutral employment practice is one that does not appear to be discriminatory on its face; rather it is one that is discriminatory in its application or effect.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 is intended to allow employees to balance their work and family life by taking reasonable unpaid leave for medical reasons, for the birth or adoption of a child; the care of a child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition.

Adoption related absence from work. Family leave, which includes maternity leave, paternity leave, and adoption leave, provides up to 12 work weeks of paid or unpaid time off from work after the birth or adoption of a child for the purposes of the birth and care of the newborn or newly adopted or foster child of the employee. See Maternity Leave and Paternity Leave.

Fringe Benefits

Compensation for employment other than wages or salary, including, for example, annual and sick leave, medical insurance, life insurance, retirement benefits, profit sharing, and bonus plans.

Front Pay

Compensation for estimated future economic loss; generally calculated based on the difference between the discrimination victim's current pay (or for a rejected applicant, the pay he/she should have received) and the pay associated with his/her rightful place. Front pay runs from the time of the settlement, hearing, or administrative or court order to a certain time in the future set by the settlement, hearing or administrative or court order (usually when the victim attains his/her rightful place) set by the settlement, hearing or court order. See also "Rightful Place."



This term was said to originate in Paris during the 1930's and referred to the male homosexual underground community. The term was reclaimed during the Gay Liberation Movement in the 1970's as a source of pride. "Gay" is commonly used only to refer to homosexual men and not women. It is used mainly as an adjective and underscores sexual orientation as one aspect of an individual, not as the total individual.

Gay Liberation Movement

The Gay Liberation Movement is generally understood to have begun in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village of New York City. The catalyst for the riots was a police raid of a gay bar on Christopher Street, near the Stonewall Inn. The patrons decided to fight back and were quickly joined by others who supported "Gay Power." Word of the riot rippled through the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community and some individuals came together to form the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), which was politically aligned with gay rights and the anti‐imperialist struggle overseas.


Gender is a socially constructed system of classification that ascribes qualities of masculinity and femininity to people. Gender characteristics can change over time and are different between cultures. Words that refer to gender include: man, woman, transgender, masculine, feminine, and gender queer.

"Gender" also refers to one's sense of self as masculine or feminine, regardless of external genitalia. Gender is often conflated with sex; however, this is inaccurate, because "sex" refers to bodies and "gender" refers to personality characteristics.

Gender Identity

Gender identity is how one thinks about their own gender, whether they think of themselves as a man or a woman, and to what degree they identify with the arbitrary gender roles placed on us by society.

Gender Roles

Society places arbitrary rules and roles, how one is supposed to act, dress, feel, think, relate to others, etc., on each of us based on a person's sex (what genitalia they have).

Glass Ceiling

The term used to describe the "unseen" barrier that prevents women and people of color from being hired or promoted beyond a certain level of responsibility, prestige, or seniority in the workplace.

Green Card

Official documentation obtained by immigrants from the United States government that grants legal permission to work within the country.



Harassment is a form of illegal discrimination defined as unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, and/or age. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.


Heterosexism is the idea that there is a natural form of sexuality, which is inevitable and good. The structures and institutions of our society exist to perpetuate this belief.

Hispanic or Latino/a

For U.S. governmental purposes the terms are used interchangeably and defined as: "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race." The terms describe an ethnic group and not a race. Accordingly, on many federal forms, Hispanics/Latino/as can also express a racial identity on a separate race question. According to the US Office of Management and Budget, the choice of terms is a matter of regional usage. "Hispanic is commonly used in the eastern portion of the United States, whereas Latino is commonly used in the western portion." In addition, for many Latino is preferred as a term of self-naming, signifying identification with the empowerment movement of peoples who share a common history of colonialism and oppression.


A person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. This does not include persons of Portuguese descent or persons from Central or South America who are not of Spanish origin or culture.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities

There are 114 historically black colleges in the United States today, including two-year and four-year and public and private institutions. Most are located in the Southeastern United States. Four are located in the Midwestern states, including Wilberforce and Central State Universities in Ohio.

Historically Underrepresented

"Historically underrepresented" is refers to groups who have been denied access and/or suffered past institutional discrimination in the United States and, according to the Census and other federal measuring tools includes African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics or Chicanos/Latinos, and Native Americans. Historical underrepresentation is revealed by an imbalance in the representation of different groups in common pursuits such as education, jobs, and housing, resulting in marginalization for some groups and individuals and not for others, relative to the number of individuals who are members of the population involved.

Other groups in the United States have been marginalized and are currently underrepresented. These groups may include but are not limited to other ethnicities, adult learners, veterans, people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, different religious groups, and different economic backgrounds.


A fear of individuals who are not heterosexual. Homophobia often results in people distancing themselves from and/or psychologically/physically harming people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered. The literal meaning of the word is "fear of same."


A clinical term used to refer to people who are sexually attracted to members of their own sex.

Hostile environment

One type of sexual harassment claim; frequent, nontrivial acts of a sexual nature that create the effect of a hostile, offensive, or intimidating work environment.

Human Rights

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. All human rights are indivisible, whether they are civil and political rights. Human rights include the right to life, equality before the law and freedom of expression; economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security and education, and collective rights, such as the rights to development and self-determination. The improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others.


Illegal Alien

The official term used by the United States Federal Government to refer to citizens from foreign countries, whose entry into the United States is prohibited by law, or who reside in the United States without evidence of legal documentation.


A person who voluntarily and/or legally re‐locates to a country different from that in which he or she was born. For example, an Irish person who migrates to the United States is an emigrant of Ireland and an immigrant to the U.S.

Inclusive Language

Words or phrases that include both women and men if applicable. Inclusive language does not assume or connote the absence of women. For example, use of word "police officers instead of "policemen" or "humankind" instead of "mankind."


Exists when disadvantaged communities and designated group members share power and decision-making at all levels in projects, programs, organizations and institutions.


Eskimo people who are distinct form American Indians and are more closely related to peoples of East Asia.


Inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people.


Expanding upon efforts that promote diversity on the basis of demographic differences, in the field of organizational management, inclusion refers to intentional policies and practices that promote the full participation and sense of belonging of every employee, customer, or client. In schools, inclusion is commonly used to refer to the practice of mainstreaming children with disabilities in general education classrooms.

Individual with a Disability, Individual with Handicaps, Handicapped Individual

Any person who:

  1. has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities;
  2. has a record of such an impairment; or
  3. is regarded as having such an impairment.

Institutional Racism

Notions of racial superiority and related discriminatory practices that are made part of the structure of organizations, including governments, schools, and firms through their policies, practices and procedures as well as through the organizational culture and values. Institutional racism results in the unequal treatment of, or discrimination against, non-dominant individuals or groups.


Unlike desegregation, which merely abolishes policies of separation, integration usually refers to active efforts to foster the representation and participation of groups that have historically faced institutional and social exclusion. Their presence in an environment, however, is not necessarily followed by transformation of its culture, norms or values to reflect their own. Hence, integration should not be confused with empowerment or with equitable outcomes.

Internalized Oppression

The process by which a member of a systematically oppressed group incorporates within her or his self and acts out the negative characteristics attributed to the group.


Refers to the analytical framework through which the relationship among systems of oppression can be understood. African American women made an early contribution to this analysis in the 19th Century. Recognizing that they experienced racism and sexism differently from both black men and white women even while they shared commonalities with both, they argued that a struggle that did not simultaneously address sexism and racism would only perpetuate both. Since then, movements against racism, sexism, heterosexism, disability, colonialism, and imperialism both within the U.S. and abroad have recognized similar correspondences, enabling more broad-based coalition-building.



Latino/a or Hispanic

See Hispanic or Latino/a


The process by which workers are removed from the active payroll to the inactive payroll during a reduction-in-force.


Term preferred by women who form their primary emotional/sexual relationships with other women. The term Lesbian originates from ancient Greece where the homosexual poet Sappho lived on the isle of Lesbos with other Greek women. Homosexual women sometimes prefer the term Lesbian as opposed to the generic term "Gay." This term acknowledges the fact that homosexual women have different priorities and experiences than homosexual men.


Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Trans-Gendered, Questioning. Sometimes, the Q stands for "queer," a term reclaimed by some LGBTs for political reasons.

Linguistic Isolation

May be used to describe the experience of feeling confused or alienated when one is unfamiliar with the language spoken by those around them.

Linguistic Profiling

The practice of making assumptions or value judgments about an individual based on the way he or she speaks and/or the language he or she uses, and then discriminating against that individual because of these factors.

Linguistic Profiling

The practice of making assumptions or value judgments about an individual based on the way he or she speaks and/or the language he or she uses, and then discriminating against that individual because of these factors.


Managing Diversity

Creating an environment in which differences are valued, encouraged, and leveraged to meet the needs of an organization. A strategically driven approach to recognizing, valuing, and fully utilizing all employees' talents, skills, backgrounds, life experiences, and perspectives to achieve business related objectives. This approach views diversity as an asset, rather than a problem, and employs a pragmatic approach where the organization benefits, and morale, profit, and productivity increase.


The experience of groups who are denied political, economic and social equity in society, and hence, relegated to its margins. It can also refer to an individual who is rendered voiceless or irrelevant in particular social context.

Maternity Leave

Childbirth related absence from work by a woman. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Melting Pot

A traditional orientation in the U.S. that assumes that "foreigners" should assimilate into the mainstream culture and noticeable differences should be minimized; this notion has largely been replaced by term such as "salad bowl," "quilt," "orchestra," or "mosaic," wherein people's individual differences are valued as they add to the richness of the mix.


The mixing of races.


In the social sciences the term minority may be applied to those groups that are considered protected classes based on historical exclusion and discrimination. For EEO official reporting purposes and for purposes of work force analysis, the term "minority" refers to Blacks, Hispanics, Alaskan Natives or American Indians, and Asian or Pacific Islanders. In general usage, it is commonly used to refer to people of color as in "minority community" and minority students. Such labels are increasingly disfavored as they naturalize the "minor" political, economic, and social status to which people of color have been subjected. (See People of Color/Women of Color)


An aggravated form of male sexism. Hatred of women.

Multicultural, Multiculturalism

Theory and practice that promotes the peaceful coexistence of multiple races, ethnicities, and cultures in a given society, celebrating and sustaining language diversity, religious diversity, and social equity.

Multi-cultural organization

An organization whose employees are of different backgrounds, races, ages, genders, and other dimensions of diversity.


Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander

A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. The term "Native Hawaiian" does not include individuals who are native to the State of Hawaii by virtue of being born there.

In addition to Native Hawaiians, Guamanians, and Samoans, this category includes the following Pacific Islander groups reported in the 1990 census: Carolinian, Fijian, Kosraean, Melanesian, Micronesian, Northern Mariana Islander, Palauan, Papua New Guinean, Ponapean (Pohnpelan), Polynesian, Solomon Islander, Tahitian, Tarawa Islander, Tokelauan, Tongan, Trukese (Chuukese), and Yapese.


The U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services define naturalization as "the conferring, by any means, of citizenship upon a person after birth."

Non-Resident Alien

A person who is not a citizen or national of the United States and who is in this country on a visa or temporary basis and does not have the right to remain indefinitely.



Severe exercise of power and subjugation that works to privilege one group and disadvantage another.


To disclose a person's sexual orientation to another person. To be open regarding one's sexual orientation in a given situation, as in coming out of the closet. See Coming Out, Closet.


Pacific Islander

The term "Pacific Islander" refers to persons whose origins are of the following nations: Polynesian, Melanesia, Micronesia, or any of the Pacific Islands.


The proportional distribution of desirable outcomes, or equity, across groups. (See Equity)


Passing refers to the concealment of subordinate group membership in order to access the psychological and material benefits of membership in the dominant group. Passing is not available to all members of subordinate groups, particularly those who bear easily discernible markers of their group, such as dark skin color or physical disabilities. A popular theme in African American literature and films, passing is sometimes motivated by feelings of shame and self-loathing stemming from the internalization of subordinate status in a system of oppression. As such it can sever familial and community ties, provoking feelings of abandonment and resentment. At other times, however, it may be employed as a subterfuge for the purposes of disrupting the mechanisms of oppression.

Parental Leave

See Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Paternity Leave

See Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Pattern or Practice Discrimination

Employer actions constituting a pattern of conduct resulting in discriminatory treatment toward the members of a class. Pattern or practice discrimination generally is demonstrated in large measure through statistical evidence, and can be proven under either the disparate treatment or disparate impact model.

People of Color

The term "of color" embraces Black, Asian, Latino, and indigenous peoples both within the U.S. and transnationally, whose collective marginalization as "colored" peoples and colonial subjects informs coalition politics that cut across many issues. In contrast to the label "minority," which carries negative connotations, "of color," is an example of self-naming that is positively associated with a politics of empowerment. (See Minority)


An organization or state in which members of diverse racial, ethnic, or social groups maintain their own culture and traditions and differences are valued.

Pregnancy-Disability Leave

Pregnancy and childbirth-related absence from work by a woman affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. It includes leave prior to childbirth when medically indicated and leave to recover from pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions following the birth of a child.


A preconceived judgment or bias. A prejudice can be positive or negative. Prejudice is commonly conflated with the larger systems of oppression, such as racism, of which it is only a part. Prejudice is not merely a phenomenon of individual bias. It can also be understood as the bias that is built into facially neutral institutional policies and procedures as well as seemingly innocuous cultural values in ways that reproduce inequity.


Privilege is best understood as the systematic advantage that is conferred to one group at the expense of another. The function of hegemony is to rationalize privilege as natural, legitimate, and earned. Hence privilege goes unnamed while its effects, described by such euphemistic terms as "under-privilege" and "disadvantage," are often blamed on individual misbehavior, character flaws, and cultural deficiencies. Terms such as white privilege, male privilege, and heterosexual privilege make explicit the relationship between privilege and the group for whom it is intended to function.

Protected Class

A protected class is a group that has been subjected to the documented past and continuing effects of illegal discrimination and whose civil rights, consequently, require legislative and legal reiteration and re-enforcement. In the U.S. protected classes include members of certain racial and ethnic groups, women, persons over 40, qualifying veterans, and persons with disabilities. The protections for which they are explicitly named are frequently misconstrued as "special" rights that are unavailable to other groups. In fact, they are merely an extension of equal protection to them of rights that are guaranteed to all citizens. (See Discrimination)


Qualified Individual (or Applicant or Employee) with a Disability or Handicap

An individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of a position.


In the past few years, Queer has been adopted by many Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender people as a strong, all-inclusive, confrontational, and political label for sexual minorities. It underscores and celebrates the dictionary definitions of queer: differing from what is usual and ordinary; odd; singular; strange. When gay people identify themselves as queer, they are attempting to defuse a hostile label.

Quid Pro Quo

A type of sexual harassment claim; unwelcome activity of a sexual nature in exchange for tangible job benefits or the loss of tangible job benefits owing to the rejection of such activity (if you do this for me, I'll do this for you…).


A number or percentage particularly of people designated as a targeted minimum for a particular group or organization. A term often used in reference to admission to colleges and universities and organizational hiring practices.



Race refers to a socially defined group, which sees itself and / or is seen by others as being different from other groups in its common descent or external features, such as skin color, hair texture, or facial characteristics.


Racism can be understood as individual and/ or institutional practices and policies based on the belief that a particular race is superior to others. This often results in depriving certain individuals and groups of certain civil liberties, rights, and resources, hindering opportunities for social, educational, and political advancement.

Reasonable Accommodation

Reasonable accommodation may include but is not limited to: (1) Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with handicaps; (2) Job restructuring; part-time or modified work schedules; (3) Reassignment to a vacant position; (4) Acquisition or modifications of equipment or devices; (5) Appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials, or policies; (8) the provision of qualified readers or interpreters; and, (7) other similar accommodations for individuals with handicaps.

Reasonable Person

The judicial construct of a mythical individual who thinks and responds the way an ordinary, logical, and careful person would under the same conditions; a standard for behavior used in courts of law.


An employer may not fire, demote, harass or otherwise "retaliate" against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in a discrimination proceeding, or otherwise opposing discrimination. The same laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, and disability, as well as wage differences between men and women performing substantially equal work, also prohibit retaliation against individuals who oppose unlawful discrimination or participate in an employment discrimination proceeding.

Reverse Discrimination

A term used by opponents to affirmative action who believe that these policies are causing members of traditionally dominant groups to be discriminated against.



Segregation commonly refers to the system of racial exclusion created for the purpose of upholding a system of racial privilege for whites. Though de jure segregation is illegal, de facto segregation, particularly in housing and education, contributes to the perpetuation of racial disparities across many spheres. See Integration.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation is the deep-seated direction of one's sexual attraction toward the same gender, opposite gender, or other genders. It is on a continuum and not a set of absolute categories.


The division of a species on the basis of reproductive organs. Sex is not interchangeable with gender, which connotes social definitions of sex role assignments. See Gender.


A system of oppression based on social constructions of gender superiority and inferiority, which is expressed in individual, institutional as well as cultural forms and functions for the benefit of the dominant sex at the expense of others.


Prejudice or discrimination based on sex. Behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles. See Sexism.

Sexual Harassment

Unwelcome and repeated conduct of a sexual nature toward an employee in the workplace, which can involve the creation of a hostile environment or quid pro quo. Sexual harassment is defined in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment."

Sexual Identity

Sexual Identity is the consistent and enduring sense of one's own sexuality and repeated sexual thoughts, feelings and/or behaviors. Sexual identity is how one thinks of oneself in terms of whom one is sexually and romantically attracted to. The process of sexual identity is ongoing.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual Orientation is defined as a predominant erotic attraction for the same or other sex, or for both sexes in varying degrees. Few, if any, obvious identifiable mannerism exists that distinguish between individuals of different sexual orientations. Sexual Orientation is not a choice, lifestyle or behavior, it is an inner sense of identity.


Length of employment as defined by the employer or applicable collective bargaining agreement.

Social Justice

The belief that each individual and group in a given society has a right to equal opportunity, fairness, civil liberties and participation in the social, education, economic, institutional and moral freedoms and responsibilities valued by the community.

Social Similarity

The widespread tendency for people to hire and promote persons similar to themselves along sex, racial, ethnic, or religious dimensions. Also referred to homosocial reproduction. See Rosabeth Kanter, Men and Women of the Corporation.

Special Disabled Veteran

A veteran who: (a) is entitled to compensation (or who, but for the receipt of military retirement pay, would be entitled to compensation) under laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs for a disability that is rated at 30 percent or more, or rated at 10 or 20 percent in the case of a veteran who has been determined to have a serious employment handicap; or (b) was discharged or released from active duty because of a service-connected disability.


A relatively rigid and oversimplified conception of a group of people in which all individuals in the group are labeled and often treated based on perceived group characteristics.

Systemic Discrimination

Employment policies or practices that serve to differentiate or to perpetuate a differentiation in terms or conditions of employment of applicants or employees because of their status as members of a particular group. Intent to discriminate may or may not be involved. Systemic discrimination, sometimes called class discrimination or a pattern or practice of discrimination, concerns a recurring practice or continuing policy rather than an isolated act of discrimination.


Termination of Employment

Separation of an employee from the active and inactive payroll.

Terms and Conditions of Employment

This phrase includes all aspects of the employment relationships between an employee and his or her employer including, but not limited to, compensation, fringe benefits, leave policies, job placement, physical environment, work-related rules, work assignments, training and education, opportunities to serve on committees and decision-making bodies, opportunities for promotion, and maintenance of a nondiscriminatory working environment.

Title IV (of the 1964 Civil Rights Act)

Provides for nondiscrimination in education on the basis of race, color, religion, and national origin. See Civil Rights, Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VI (of the 1964 Civil Rights Act)

Prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin in the provision of benefits or services under federally assisted programs and activities including educational institutions. Employment is a factor under Title VI only where it is a primary objective of the federal assistance. See Civil Rights, Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VII (of the 1964 Civil Rights Act)

Prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, and national origin. Federal financial assistance is not a factor. See Civil Rights, Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title IX (of the Education Amendments of 1972 to the 1964 Civil Rights Act)

Prohibits sex discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Covers both employees and students, as well as athletics, physical education, and counseling. Does not cover curriculum materials. Requires institutional self-evaluation and appointment of Title IX coordinators. See Civil Rights, Civil Rights Act of 1964.


The policy of making only a perfunctory effort or symbolic gesture toward the accomplishment of a goal, such as racial integration; the practice of hiring or appointing a token number of people from underrepresented groups in order to deflect criticism or comply with affirmative action rules.


Recognition and respect of values, beliefs, and behaviors that differ from one's own.

Transracial Adoption

The adoption of a child of a race different than that of the adopting parent or guardian.


A person whose core gender identity is different than their biological gender identity. A transgender person is someone who switches gender roles, whether it is once or many times. Transgender persons can be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.



Underserved populations are ones that are disadvantaged in relation to other groups because of structural/societal obstacles and disparities.


Having materially fewer minorities or women in a particular job group than reasonably would be expected based upon their availability.

Undocumented Workers

A term used to describe the populations of laborers in the United States who do not possess legal documentation of residence and/or who did not receive proper authorization to enter into the country.

Undue Hardship

In general, with respect to the provision of a reasonable accommodation, significant difficulty or expense incurred by an employer. Whether an accommodation is reasonable requires a case-by-case determination. Significant difficulty or expense is incurred when considered in light of the following factors:

  1. nature and net cost of the accommodations needed;
  2. the overall financial resources of the facility or unit involved, including the effect on the expenses and resources or impact of such action upon the operation of the facility;
  3. the number of employees at the facility;
  4. the type of operations of the facility, including the composition, structure and functions of the work force, the geographic location of personnel, and the administrative and financial relationship of the facility to higher levels of employer administration; and
  5. the impact of the accommodation on the operations of the facility, including the impact on the ability of other employees in the facility to perform their duties and the impact on the facility's ability to conduct business.

Uniformly Applied

Applying employment criteria/processes in the same manner to members of a particular race, color, religion, sex or national origin group and others.

Unearned Privilege

Privileges accorded to some individuals because they possess or demonstrate certain characteristics associated with the dominant culture in society, such as being heterosexual, white, or male. These privileges are deeply ingrained into U.S. culture.



An individual, not of Hispanic origin, with origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa or the Middle East.


A term coined by Alice Walker to describe the experiences and perspectives of black women, in contrast to those of white middle-class women on which feminism has been centered. Walker defined the term accordingly: " 1. From womanish. (opp. of "girlish," i.e., frivolous, irresponsible, not serious.) A black feminist or feminist of color... Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered "good" for one... Responsible. In charge. Serious. 2. Also: A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women's culture, women's emotional flexibility (values tears as natural counterbalance of laughter), and women's strength... Committed to the survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not separatist, except periodically, for health."

Wrongful Discharge

Generally, unlawful employment termination. The phrase "wrongful discharge" is frequently used to refer to exceptions created by the courts in some states to the employment at will doctrine (see above). Courts in such states differ in the circumstances in which they will allow wrongful discharge suits challenging a termination. State law on this issue is not of direct concern to OFCCP. The Executive Order, Section 503, 38 U.S.C. §4212 and implementing regulations prohibit termination based on a prohibited factor.




Definitions for this glossary were compiled from:

  • Wikipedia
  • National Association of Area Agencies
  • National Multicultural Institute
  • OH Aggregates Mineral Association
  • Xavier University
  • UC Berkeley

Keywordsdiversity, equity   Doc ID31872
OwnerAnne M.GroupVCRGE and Graduate School
Created2013-07-26 12:53:59Updated2024-01-29 15:38:14
SitesVCRGE and Graduate School
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