It’s easy for some to take civil rights in America for granted. After all, most of today’s workers never experienced a workforce before the Civil Rights Act was enacted. But this important law continues to have a major impact on the country today, and its significance should not be forgotten.
The History of the Civil Rights Act
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Civil Rights movement sought to establish equality for African Americans. The Civil Rights Act was signed into law on July 2, 1964, by President Lyndon Johnson. The Civil Rights Act banned discrimination in public places and desegregated schools and public facilities. It also prohibited employment discrimination.
Since 1964, additional anti-discrimination laws have been passed to provide more protections to workers. This includes the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which outlines the damages owed in cases of intentional discrimination in employment.
Employment Protections Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
In addition to prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on color, religion, national origin, or sex. The law also protects workers from retaliation for complaining about discrimination, filing a complaint, or participating in a lawsuit or investigation.
Enforcement of the Civil Rights Act
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC also enforces employment-related portions of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.
Unfortunately, even though workplace discrimination is illegal, many employers engage in discriminatory practices. Without the EEOC, workers would have a harder time speaking up for themselves and claiming their rights. In 2019, 72,675 EEOC charges were filed. These include 23,976 charges of discrimination based on race and 23,532 charges of discrimination based on sex.
Federal employees and job applicants also have the right to file an EEOC complaint regarding discrimination or retaliation, though the process is a little different than it is for public-sector workers.
According to the EEOC, the first step is to contact the EEO Counselor at your agency. This should be done within 45 days of the incident. After that, there is generally a choice between EEO counseling or an alternative dispute resolution program. If the dispute is not settled, a formal complaint can be filed.
Great strides have been made toward stopping discrimination in the workplace. However, as the high number of EEOC charges demonstrates, the effort is not done.
After the #MeToo movement, the EEOC announced an increase in suits alleging sexual harassment. The EEOC has also tackled discrimination issues related to sexual orientation and transgender identity based on the protections against sex-based discrimination.
In addition to societal shifts, the EEOC must also respond to scientific advancement. In 2019, there were 209 EEOC charges related to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which prohibits the use of genetic information in health insurance and employment decisions.
As you can see, the EEOC provides all of us important protections and requires us to treat others fairly. However, even with fair practices, things happen, and it’s important to be prepared.
People make mistakes, have lapses in judgment, and see some situations and interactions differently than others may. What brings on an allegation of discrimination or harassment case may be due to an accidental slip, or could simply be a matter of perception. There does not always have to be a bad intention behind an action for it to be received negatively. A compliment to a coworker could feel inappropriate to them; your choice of whom to hire out of a group of candidates could look like discrimination to someone else.
It’s important to consider how your words and your conduct in the workplace might be taken by others. If all goes according to plan, you will never have to worry about dealing with such a situation. But there is always the chance that you could someday face an allegation, and have to defend yourself while it is investigated. That’s why it’s smart to be prepared with Federal Employee Professional Liability Insurance.
Article authored by and containing the opinions of Starr Wright USA. This article is offered solely for informational purposes. Starr Wright USA is a marketing name for Starr Wright Insurance Agency, Inc. and its affiliate(s). Starr Wright USA is an insurance agency specializing in insurance solutions for federal employees and federal contractors. For more information, visit wrightusa.com. Starr Wright USA is a division of Starr Insurance Companies, which is a marketing name for the operating insurance and travel assistance companies and subsidiaries of Starr International Company, Inc. and for the investment business of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc.