Equal Employment Opportunity: The Legal Environment



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Equal Employment Opportunity: The Legal Environment

  • Part 1

Equal Employment Opportunity Laws

  • Equal employment opportunity – The right of all people to work and to advance on the basis of merit, ability, and potential
  • Discrimination in society and in the workplace gave rise to the civil rights movement, which in turn resulted in the U.S. Congress’s passage of laws to ensure equal employment opportunity
  • 2-

Equal Pay Act (1963)

  • Prohibits sex-based discrimination in rates of pay for men and women working on the same or similar jobs
    • Part of the minimum wage section of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
    • Coverage of the Equal Pay Act is coextensive with the coverage of minimum wage provisions of FLSA
  • Permits differences in wages if payment is based on seniority, merit, quantity and quality of production, or a differential due to any other factor than gender
  • Prohibits employers from attaining compliance with the Act by reducing wage rate of any employee
  • 2-

Title VII, Civil Rights Act (1964)

  • Keystone federal legislation; covers disparate treatment and disparate impact discrimination; and created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • Section 703 covers two basic areas of discrimination
    • Disparate treatment, Section 703(a)(1) – Intentional discrimination and treating one class of employees differently from other employees
    • Disparate impact, Section 703(a)(2) – Unintentional discrimination involving employment practices that appear to be neutral but adversely affect a protected class of people
  • 2-

Title VII, Civil Rights Act (1964)

  • Organizations covered by the provisions of Title VII:
    • All private employers of 15 or more people who are employed 20 or more weeks per year
    • All public and private educational institutions
    • State and local governments
    • Public and private employment agencies
    • Labor unions that maintain and operate a hiring hall or hiring office or have 15 or more members
    • Joint labor–management committees for apprenticeships and training
  • Title VII created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to administer the act and to prohibit covered organizations from engaging in any unlawful employment practices
  • 2-

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (1967)

  • Prohibits discrimination against employees over 40 years through 69 years of age by all companies employing 20 or more people in the private sector
    • Amendment (Effective January 1, 1987) – Eliminates mandatory retirement at age 70 for employees of firms with 20 or more employees
  • Organizations covered by the ADEA:
    • Private employers of 20 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year
    • Labor organizations
    • Employment agencies
    • State and local governments
    • Federal government agencies, with certain differences; for example, federal employees cannot be forced to retire at any age
  • 2-

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (1967)

  • Exception – Employees in bona fide executive or high policymaking positions
    • Permits mandatory retirement at age 65 for high-level executives with pensions exceeding $44,000 a year
  • Section 4(f) of the ADEA sets forth several conditions under which the act does not apply
    • Age is a bona fide occupational qualification
    • It is not illegal for an employer to discipline or discharge an individual within the protected age group for good cause
  • 2-

Rehabilitation Act (1973)

  • Prohibits discrimination against handicapped individuals and contains these provisions
    • Prohibits discrimination against handicapped individuals by employers with federal contracts and subcontracts in excess of $2,500
    • Requires written affirmative action plans (AAPs) from employers of 50 or more employees and federal contracts of $50,000 or more
    • Prohibits discrimination against handicapped individuals by federal agencies
    • Requires affirmative action by federal agencies to provide employment opportunities for handicapped persons
    • Requires federal buildings to be accessible to handicapped persons
    • Prohibits discrimination against handicapped individuals by recipients of federal financial assistance
  • 2-

Rehabilitation Act (1973)

  • Section 7(7)(B) of the Rehabilitation Act defines a handicapped individual as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment
  • Primary responsibility for enforcing this act lies with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) of the Department of Labor
  • 2-

Vietnam-Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act (1974)

  • Prohibits federal government contractors and subcontractors with federal government contracts of $10,000 or more from discriminating in hiring and promoting Vietnam and disabled veterans
  • Requires employers with 50 or more employees and contracts exceeding $50,000 to have written affirmative action programs for people protected by this act
  • OFCCP enforces this act
  • 2-

Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978)

  • The Supreme Court decision, General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, had a significant impact on its passage
  • Requires employers to treat pregnancy just like any other medical condition with regard to fringe benefits and leave policies
  • EEOC (responsible for administering the act) has taken the view that
    • An employer may not deny its unmarried employees pregnancy benefits
    • If pregnancy benefits are given to female employees, they must also be extended to the spouses of male employees
  • 2-


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