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Federal Fair Employment Laws

Civil Rights Act of 1866

One of several statutes enacted by the Reconstruction-era Congress to implement the newly ratified Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments eliminating slavery and guaranteeing all citizens equal protection under the law. 

In 1975 the Supreme Court held that it affords a federal remedy for private employment discrimination because of race or color. It prohibits substantially the same kinds of discrimination because of race or color as are outlawed by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it applies to all employers, regardless of size.  It has also been construed to prohibit discrimination based on alienage.

Equal Pay Act of 1963

Forbids pay differential on the basis of sex. Men and women are to receive equal pay for equal work. Covers all employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 plus executive, administrative, and professional employees and outside salespeople.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

The landmark event in federal anti-discrimination legislation was the Civil Rights Act of 1964, particularly its Title VII. It protects workers from discrimination in employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. 

Included under sex are pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions which must be treated the same as any other non-pregnancy-related illness. 

Title VII covers all terms, conditions, and benefits of employment (including but not limited to recruitment, hiring, promotion, training, compensation, and discipline), and holds the employer responsible for any discrimination that goes on within the employer's organization. 

Title VII protects individuals who have filed a complaint, assisted in an investigation or objected to discriminatory practices (regardless of whether the charges or objections are valid or invalid) from intimidation, discipline, discharge, harassment, or any sort of retaliation. Federal courts have interpreted Title VII to guarantee workers a right to an environment free of ethnic, religious, racial or sexual discrimination. They ruled that workers' rights were violated by the pervasive use of derogatory terms and by abusive treatment.

A form of harassment known as "hostile work environment" occurs when harassing behavior is so severe or pervasive that it can be said to alter the conditions of employment. This form of harassment can exist even when there is no actual or threatened economic injury to the individual claiming to be harassed. Covers employers with 15 or more employees.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

Protects employees age 40 and older from employment discrimination based on age. Covers employers with 20 or more employees.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978

Prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and pregnancy related conditions. Covers employers with 15 or more employees.

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986

Prohibits discrimination in the recruitment, hiring, or termination of any individual on the basis of national origin or citizenship. Covers all employers with more than three employees.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

Prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment. 

A qualified individual with a disability is an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job in question. 

An employer is required to make an accommodation to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's business. An employer is not required to lower quality or production standards to make an accommodation, nor is an employer obligated to provide personal use items such as glasses or hearing aids. Covers employers with 15 or more employees.

Civil Rights Act of 1991

Reverses eight Supreme Court rulings that narrowed the scope and effectiveness of federal employment discrimination laws, and strengthens the protections of discrimination laws and expands their remedies. 

A variety of topics are covered, including the scope of the ban on racial discrimination in the Civil Rights Act of 1866, compensatory and punitive damages, mixed-motive employment practices, "race norming" of test scores, the "glass ceiling" (barriers for certain demographics in advancement to upper management), and the burden of proof in disparate impact lawsuits brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Civil rights law recognizes discrimination of two basic types: discriminatory treatment and disparate impact (also known as adverse impact).  Put simply, discriminatory treatment involves intentional discrimination against a protected person or group, whereas disparate impact involves facially neutral practices that are not intended to be discriminatory but are discriminatory in effect.  Covers employers with 15 or more employees.

Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938

Regulates minimum wages, overtime pay, and the employment of minors. Affects full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state and local government.

Executive Order 11246 of 1965

As amended, requires that federal contractors and subcontractors not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Covers contractors and subcontractors with government contracts of more than $10,000.

Executive Order 11478 of 1969

As amended, prohibits discrimination in all federal employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, or status as a parent.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Federal contractors must take affirmative action to hire and promote persons with disabilities. Covers federal government contractors with contracts of $2,500 or more.

Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974

Requires federal government contractors to take affirmative action to employ and to advance in employment qualified disabled war veterans, including Vietnam-era veterans. Covers federal government contractors and subcontractors with contracts of $10,000 or more.

Family Medical Leave Act of 1993

Requires employers provide leave of absences for the care of a seriously ill family member, birth or adoption of a child, or to address the employee's own serious health problems. Employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year. Covers employers with 50 or more employees.

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