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What is Employment Discrimination?

What is Employment Discrimination?

Have You Been Discriminated Against at Work?

Employment discrimination can mean many different things. The guideline that established employment discrimination protection in the United States of America was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The pervasive atmosphere of racial discrimination had produced the civil rights protests of the 1960’s. This act was designed to begin the healing process of an entire country. It made discrimination in employment, voting, public accommodations, and education, illegal.

Relevant History of the Law

employment discriminationTitle VII, makes it illegal to discriminate against another person based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, or retaliation. Originally, there was little ability to enforce any breach of this Act. It established only that a person could file a civil lawsuit if the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that there was a basis for the complaint.  When patterns were proven demonstrative of discriminatory practices, the EEOC could refer the case to the Department of Justice for trial. Although, it was initially referred to as “the toothless tiger,” it was instrumental in developing policy guidelines that structured the legal parameters for Title VII interpretation.

In 1966, the Guidelines on Religious Discrimination, made it mandatory for employers to provide “reasonable accommodation of religious practices.” The burden of proving that the hardship was “un due” was placed on the employer. In 1970, EEOC established the Guidelines on National Origin Discrimination that defined employment discrimination to include any identifiable national characteristics that might have a negative impact on minority employees from other countries or ethnic backgrounds.

In 1971, the Griggs v Duke Power Company case established that some company test or hiring requirements could be termed as employment discrimination because the practice that was being used to exclude a group of people from the job could not be shown to relate to job performance. If the practice creates an employment discrimination environment, but the practice itself is not related to the job requirements, then the practice is discriminatory and illegal. This decision redirected employment discrimination from a motivation to discriminate, to the consequences of employment practices causing discrimination.  These seemingly neutral employment practices were operating to limit the advancement of women and minorities in certain jobs.

Role of Women’s Rights

The EEOC was surprised early on, to receive as many sex discrimination cases as they did. In the first year of this act, one third of all of the cases that were filed involved sex discrimination.  Congressman Howard Smith of Virginia was thwarted in his efforts to sandbag the bill in 1971. At the last minute, he added mandated equal rights for women. He later admitted that he thought that Congress would never pass any bill that mandated equal rights for women. He was opposed to the civil rights legislation, and thought that he could ensure that it would not be passed if women were included. They were wrong and it did pass. It also grew stronger as the need to define employment discrimination grew.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 gave teeth to the Act.  This Act provided the EEOC with the ability to litigate complaints. It also allowed employees of state and local government, as well as Federal employees the right to file discrimination complaints.

What Counts as Employment Discrimination?

When a person asks what employment discrimination is, they must take in to consideration that the very nature of the law is fluid. Employment discrimination is any act that makes an employee feel that they must commit an act that is morally reprehensible to them in order to keep their jobs. It is any time that a hiring agency creates hiring tests that are more difficult for any group of people than equally so for all people. It is any behavior in the workplace that makes someone else feel uncomfortable. It is any behavior that involves stereotypes that cause the working environment to feel hostile to an employee.

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