Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) and protections based on the concept of "human rights" are interrelated yet distinct. In the case of EEO, the onus is on the employer to take a proactive approach in identifying and eliminating any organisational practice(s) that could lead to inequality in employment between individuals or groups. Section 58 of the State Sector Act 1988 places this onus on the individual departments within the New Zealand Public Service (see Section 2.1.2 below for more detail). Enforcement of EEO tends to be by way of monitoring, review, and guidance by internal EEO committees and by external agencies, such as the EEO Trust and the State Services Commission (for Public Service departments only). Compliance with EEO procedures is demonstrated with reference to the employer's overall workforce, such as the percentage of women or Māori employed.
On the other hand, the Human Rights Act 1993 promotes an individual rights-based approach to freedom from discrimination in various areas (including employment) on 13 specified grounds. In general, this Act promotes similar or same treatment for different groups and individuals. Section 73 of the Act does, however, allow "measures to ensure equality" for persons or groups. Enforcement of the Human Rights Act 1993 is largely by way of individual complaints and legal processes.
While women are a target group for EEO- and human rights-based policies, so typically are other groups defined on the basis of ethnicity (e.g., Māori in New Zealand, Blacks and Hispanics in the US), disability, age (e.g., older persons), and sexual orientation (gay/lesbian) 1 . Regardless of country, EEO policies tend to be initiated by governments (federal and/or state) with the aim of reducing the discrimination experienced by disadvantaged groups, for example, the reduction of the higher unemployment rates for these groups. Thus, the attitude of countries towards EEO is illustrated by the timing and impact of legislation designed to further these aims.
This study discusses protections from a gender perspective only.
1 This is an illustrative rather than an exhaustive list of protected minorities/groups.