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Civil Rights Act

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"Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the single most important piece of legislation that has helped to shape and define employment law rights in this country (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2001)". Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, age, gender, disability, religion and national origin. However, it was racial discrimination that was the moving force of the law that created a whirlwind of a variety of discriminations to be amended into Title VII. Title VII was a striving section of legislation, an effort which had never been tried which made the passage of the law an extremely uneasy task. This paper will discuss the evolution of Title VII as well as the impact Title VII has had in the workforce.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed soon after the milestone March on Washington. In the largest march ever held in the United States, people of all races and colors gathered together to show legislature that racism would no longer be acceptable in society. Title VII, the section which deals with discrimination in the workforce is one small part of the larger piece of legislation. Title VII, of the Civil Rights Act, quickly became the most important arbiter of rights under the new law (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2001). The workforce has drastically changed since the passage of the act. Women and minorities are engaged in employment now more than ever. With the passage of Title VII, the door was opened to prohibiting job discrimination and creating fairness in employment (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2001). Soon after, protection against discrimination based on age and disability was provided.

Title VII was amended several times after 1964. Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protecting individuals who are between 40 and 65 years of age from discrimination in employment. This was just three years after Congress had voted down an amendment to Title VII to include age discrimination as an unlawful employment practice ( In 1972, Title VII was amended to include the Equal Employment Opportunity Act which promises equal opportunities for all of mankind. The Rehabilitation Act was passed in 1973 which prohibits the Federal Government, as an employer, from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities. In 1976, in General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, the Supreme Court ruled that health insurance for employees providing sickness and accident benefits for any disability but those arising as a result of pregnancy did not constitute sex discrimination under Title VII (

Congress amended Title VII in 1978 by passing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and made it clear that discrimination based on pregnancy is unlawful sex discrimination. This legislation reversed the Supreme Court's Gilbert decision in 1976. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1991 which overruled several Supreme Court decisions rendered in the 1980s that had made it more difficult for plaintiffs to prevail in their employment discrimination suits and to recover fees and costs when they won their lawsuits ( The amendment stated that parties can request jury trials and those successful plaintiffs can recover compensatory and punitive damages in employment discrimination cases. This amendment has further strengthened the law and has helped make it what it is today.

The impact of Title VII is extraordinary. The impact has not only been felt by employers, but by employees as well. Employers are under close watch and need to be more aware than ever of the laws and how discrimination suits can affect them. From an employer's standpoint, almost all of their old techniques of hiring, firing, training, promoting and disciplining had to be changed, if not closely scrutinized, to make equal opportunity among the workforce. Employers need to make sure that they note all policies and procedures regarding discrimination and to treat all employees fairly.

Employees need to be extremely careful to follow all of the company's policies regarding discrimination and harassment. Without following the proper procedures, employees may find themselves without a case and without a job. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, along with the amendments, have helped,



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