United States Equal Opportunity Commission
What is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission?
The EEOC was created July 2, 1965 by congress for the purpose of eliminating the unfair, discriminatory practices in the work force and to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. During the early 1960s there was an urgent need for civil rights protection for minorities and women within the United States. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency in charge of enforcing laws or acts to abolish discrimination within the work force in both public and private sectors. The EEOC is a five-member, bipartisan commission whom can have no more than three members from the same political party, appointed by the President, with the goal to eliminate employment discrimination (www.eeoc.gov).
There are many types of discrimination such as racial discrimination, age discrimination, gender discrimination, or discrimination against the disabled. Before 1964, minorities and women were not protected by federal regulations which restrained minorities and women from economic and social gain. The acts of discrimination kept minorities in oppression while the majority remained in control of human resources, and the ability to exploit minorities. Although, there is much less discrimination today than there was prior to the 1960s, the EEOC filed 82,428 complaints in 1999 but only charged 59.7% of employers with violations (Moy, 2000, p.23). The recent figures show that violations are declining but at a slow rate considering the EEOC has been established for over 35 years.
The term discrimination can be defined as any act that denies a person or persons resources based on a variety of reasons such as race, color, religion, sex, age, or disabilities. For example, recently Foot Locker Specialty Inc. and the EEOC settled a $3.5 million lawsuit in which older employs were terminated because of their age. This is an act of Age Discrimination (www.eeoc.gov). Another example, recently, a jury in a disability discrimination case against Chuck E. Cheese pizza chain returned a verdict on damages, awarding $13 million dollars in damages which was the EEOC largest monetary relief case ever brought by the EEOC(Moy,2000,p.140). The company was found in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for firing the employee because he was mentally retarded. These are only two examples of how people continue to be discriminated against and denied the resources based on different factors that are not within the person’s control.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963
Collectively, women have earned less than men even though they have maintained the same job. For example, in 1962, the year before the Equal Pay Act was enacted as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, women working full time earned approximately 59.3 cents for each dollar earned by male workers (Moy, 2000, p.14). This act was enacted to prohibit wage discrimination on the basis of sex and to ensure equal pay for jobs demanding equal skill not on the basis of sex. This was the first of many significant steps taken in the 1960s to ensure equal opportunity to male and female citizens. This act would be one of the first steps in the creation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the development of the EEOC as an enforcement agency.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 brought much opposition within congress. Many southern congressmen opposed the bill completely. This section of the Civil Rights Act pertained to discrimination within employment practices. During 1963 many protesters took to the streets of Washington DC. to protest the discrimination that minorities received. The late President Kennedy went before congress with a bill to end discrimination upon minorities. Although, President Kennedy was assassinated before legislation could be passed, after long debate and many compromises President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill and the Civil Rights Act was formed. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the main piece of legislature that frames our civil rights within employment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibited employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin (loevy, 1997, p.79) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also prohibits discrimination because of participation in schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group. Title VII prohibits not only intentional discrimination, but also practices that have the effect of discriminating against individuals because of their race, color, national origin, religion, or sex. An example of discrimination was in a case in which the NAACP sued Alabama state police contending that Alabama had the least racially integrated police organization in the country. The court ordered them to integrate their organization by hiring one African American police man for every white one until they possessed a 25 percent minority work-force (Loevy, 1997, p.43) Title VII was the beginning for defining discrimination within employment, and would later frame other discrimination acts such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Americans with Disabilities Act, or The Rehabilitation Act. Title VII was the beginning in ending discrimination but the laws could only be as good as the enforcement. The EEOC was developed in July 1965 to enforce the Civil Rights Acts of 1964.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE EEOC
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was established July 1965 less than a year after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964(www.eeoc.gov). The Commission is composed of five Commissioners and a General Counsel appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate (www.eeoc.gov). Commissioners are appointed for five-year staggered terms. The General Counsel’s term is four years. The President designates a Chairman and a Vice-Chairman. The Chairman is the chief executive officer of the Commission. The commission has authority to establish equal employment policy and to approve litigation.
The General Counsel is responsible for conducting litigation. The Commission can have no more than three members from the same political party. The political party stipulation is to eliminate conflicting political or social views. Since its establishment, the EEOC has focused on the goal of ending discrimination practices forbidden by laws. In the beginning the EEOC had very little power to enforce the laws. The EEOC relied on tactics such as education, outreach programs, and conciliation (www.eeoc.gov). Although, the EEOC made many contribution during its early years by documenting acts of discrimination, which would later aid in broadening the definition of employment discrimination practices. The EEOC made initial advances by making conciliation agreements with employers which would desegregate employer facilities (www.eeoc.gov). The EEOC also negotiated an agreement with Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company to give minority employees equal pay, and to desegregate employer facilities, which affected over 5000 African-Americans (www.eeoc.gov). The EEOC was very limited in enforcement power prior to 1972 although it was still very influential in deterring employment discrimination acts. The EEOC relied on informal means to resolve issues of employment discrimination.
The U.S. Department of Justice had the authority to litigate employment discrimination cases (Moyer, 2000, p.16). In 1966 the EEOC used its power under section 709 of Title VII to require employers with 100 or more employees to submit a report(EEO-1) that would which showed the representation of men and women of five racial/ethnic groups in nine basic job categories. The job categories reflected different levels of job opportunity, such as laborers, craft workers, technicians, professionals, and managers. (www.eeoc.gov). The EEOC began with a $2 million dollar budget and projected that 2,000 complaints of discrimination would be filed in a year, but astonishing enough there were 8,852 which continued to increase yearly. The lower projection and the increase created a large backlog of cases. Many civil rights groups began to view the EEOC as the "toothless tiger" (www.eeoc.gov). The astonishing number of complaints began to bring mthe government attention toward discrimination, and additional power to the EEOC to enforce the laws against discrimination in the workplace. In 1972 the Equal Employment Act gave EEOC the power to file lawsuits against private employers, employment agencies, and unions when conciliation failed, and to file suits against private employers. The powers also extended to educational institutions and state and local government. The broadening of power to the EEOC also decreased number of required employment number from 100 employees to 15 employees which gave the EEOC more power to regulate small private businesses.