Equal Employment Opportunities and Anti-Discrimination Laws

740 words | 3 page(s)

Equal Employment Opportunities were created to ensure work environments are free from unlawful discrimination and harassment. State and Federal Labor laws were established to promote fair treatment and equality in the work place. These laws are important in helping to protect the rights of all members of society, particularly minority groups.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 revolutionized American society. Its formation signaled an important move forward in protecting the rights of all Americans. When dealing with work place discrimination, Title VII is probably the most commonly referenced law. (Bridget Miller – Harassment HR Manager 2015) This section of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin or religion.

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This Federal Law was also important in protecting the rights of individuals, as it stated it was unlawful to penalize anyone who complained because of work place discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was granted the authority to enforce all provisions falling under Title VII. Generally this applies to organizations with 15 or more employees.

Established in 1990, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was the country’s first civil rights legislation, specifically tackling discrimination against people with disabilities. This comprehensive piece of legislation was ground breaking, in ensuring people with disabilities received equal opportunities to participate and contribute to American society. To be protected under the equal opportunity law of the ADA, a disability was defined as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities” (ADA.gov – United States Department of Justice. Civil Rights Division)

In 2008 significant changes were made to the definition of “disability.” This resulted in the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments (ADAAA) becoming effective in 2009. Title I of the Act covered Equal Employment Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities. A predominant feature of this Act, was ensuring employers provided reasonable modifications or adjustments to the work places, for qualified applicants or employees with a disability.

To help protect the rights of an increasingly aging population, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was introduced in 1967. This labor law was created to prevent employment discrimination against people 40 years of age and older. Challenged by inaccurate stereotypes assigned to workers of an older age group, the ADEA helped ensure equal employment opportunities for this demographic group. Employers are actively encouraged to ignore a person’s age when making employment decision’s, and instead focus on their merit. The ADEA is significant in establishing a non-discriminatory evaluation of an employee’s performance, based on “…an individual productivity and contribution in the work place…” (A Study of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

In 1963 the Fair Labor Standards Act was amended, resulting in the enactment of the Equal Pay Act (EPA). In an effort to put an end to gender pay discrimination, the EPA advocated equal pay for equal work. Despite what President Kennedy called “a significant step forward” (John F Kennedy – 10 June 1963) when signing the bill, women continue to face significant barriers in the work force. By 2012, women accounted for 58% of the American labor market. Despite this contribution, they still earned only 77 cents for every dollar their male colleges received. (Time Magazine – April 2015)

As the American work force continues to both age and become even more diverse, the potential for employment discrimination is still a very prevalent issue. Projections from 1980 to 2020 show a steady decline in the white working-age population. In contrast the minority population of the workforce is projected to double, during the same period (US Census Bureau – 2000 Census). By 2050, the number of people in the United States over the age of 65 is expected to more than double to 89 million. (Population Reference Bureau – 2011) The importance of anti-discrimination laws remains vital, in ensuring equal employment opportunities exist for all members of the American workforce.

  • ADA.gov (United States Department of Justice – Civil Rights Divison) – accessed 23/01/2017 (www.ada.gov/ada_intro.htm)
  • Alter, Charlotte. (Time Magazine) Here’s the History of the Battle for Equal Pay for American Women. 14 April 2015.
  • Glenn, Jeremy J; Little, Katelan E. (American Bar Association) A Study of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Vol 31 No 6. (2017)
  • Miller, Bridget. Harassment, HR Management (24 March 2015) HR Daily Advisor –What is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
  • Population Reference Bureau (February 2011) America’s Aging Population (Volume 66, No 1)
  • Ross, Paul A (27 October 2015) Discrimination and Harassment in the Work Place – (for employees)
  • The National Centre for Public Policy and Higher Education – November 2005 (www.highereducation.org/reports/pa_decline) US Census Bureau – 2000 Census

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