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Although the phrase "affirmative action" is used in the 1964 Civil Rights law, there is little clarification supplied. Courts may order "such affirmative action as may be appropriate" when an employer or labor union or employment agency has "intentionally" engaged in unlawful employment practices. The only examples of such action that are provided are "reinstatement or hiring of employees, with or without back pay...."
To a large extent, the 1964 law left affirmative action undefined. The phrase appears again in executive order #11246; but, again, not much is said that would give it an operational meaning.