Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Abstract

In today’s society, its widely accepted that diversity is important in ensuring effective functioning in the workplace. Various companies stress on diversity when hiring and promoting employees. The case also applies in times of ordering of goods and services. However, the case was much different a couple of decades back in the United States of America. Racial segregation was the order of the day. It was extensively practiced and African-Americans were the most affected community. Discrimination was practiced on the basis of race, color, sex, religion and origin. Many Civil Rights leaders advocated for equality through campaigns. An example of one leader at the time was Martin Luther King Jr. Numerous campaigns and protests resulted to the formulation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act led to the blacks being granted equal rights in the society with the whites. However, passing of the Decree was faced with numerous challenges and opposition.

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Key words: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, federal law

Introduction

A federal law is a body of legislations that applies to the entire nation. It is formulated by a country’s federal government. Such a government is established when political units merge to form a federation. The units in question include states and provinces. The law is formulated in accordance with the constitution. To this end, the constitution mandates the Congress to ratify the statutes needed to come up with a new legislation. The ratification is needed for various reasons, such as standardization of interstate commerce. Both general and permanent federal decrees are codified in the United States Code (Bumgarner, 2006). Most statutes bestow the executive division agencies with the authority to formulate laws. The acts are then published in the Federal Register. The publication is done before the bills are included in the Code of Federal Laws.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the federal law primarily focused on areas that would directly grant the national government powers in the constitution (Bumgarner, 2006). The sectors included military, monetary, and intellectual property. Other areas included foreign affairs, mail, and tariff. In the 20th century, the law extended its focus further. The extension covered such areas as aviation, antitrust, pharmaceuticals, and trademarks. The expansion was influenced by a ‘wide-ranging’ understanding of the constitution’s Commerce and Spending clauses (Gold, 2011). It is important to note that the federal government interacts differently with each body of state law. For example, there are powerful acts operating at both the national and state levels with regards to the antitrust and employment sector. In addition, in such an area as family law, only a small number of national statutes network with the broader state law body.

In this paper, the author will focus on one of the federal laws operating in the U.S. The legislation in question is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The discussion will involve a description of the law, its rationale, efficiency, and implementation. In addition, the author will evaluate the legislation and provide recommendations.

A Review of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Description of the Law

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is part of the public rights legislation in the United States. It is codified as Sub-chapter VI of chapter 21 of title 42 in United States Code (Grofman, 2000). The law applies to employers with fifteen or more workers in every day of work. The specified number of workers must exist for a period of twenty calendar weeks. In addition, the specification with regards to number of employees and duration of time applies to the present or past year of operations. The definition is provided for in section 42 of the United States Code (U.S.C). The Act criminalizes discrimination of workers on the basis of color, origin, race, religion, or sex. In addition, it prohibits unfair treatment of individuals related to persons considered to be different. An example includes cases of interracial marriages.

The bill was first introduced by President John F. Kennedy. He presented it during his speech on civil rights on June 11, 1963. He called for legislations in this field and argued that all persons should be accorded equal privileges when receiving services in open public facilities. Some of these places include hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls. The speech was mainly triggered by frequent protests from African-Americans (Mayer, 2004). The most memorable civil unrest at the time was the Birmingham Alabama campaign. It involved non-violent demonstrations by children and students who stood against police attacks during campaigns against segregation. The attacks were executed using clubs, police dogs, and high pressure fire hoses. In spite of President Kennedy’s efforts to promote equality, he was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

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The bill was signed on July 2, 1964. The signing was done by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He used a total of 75 pens. He later gave out the pens to the Congress men that were in favor of the bill. Supporters of the legislation included Hubert Humphrey, Everett Dirksen, and Martin Luther King Jr. In the earlier stages of its implementation, powers to execute Title VII were weak (Gold, 2011). However, things changed as time passed. The Congress declared its power to legislate under various parts of the United States Constitution. It worked to ensure that all American citizens received equal protection as stipulated by the Fourteenth Amendment Act. In addition, the Congress guaranteed to protect the people’s voting rights. The enactment of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 brought to an end various discrimination cases (Mayer, 2004). Such instances include biasness during the registration of voters and racial segregation at the workplace and in learning institutions.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Rationale

The presence of a law does not necessarily mean that people will follow it. Despite the signing of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, cases of discrimination are still rampant in the U.S (Gold, 2011). One of the most affected areas is the workplace. There are numerous cases where individuals are denied job opportunities due to race, origin, sex, and religion. Such instances are reported in spite of the fact that the employee may be fully qualified for the position. In addition, some organizations only employ workers from a certain race. For example, some companies may decide to give priority to Whites at the expense of African-Americans. As a result, the organizations end up with more workers from a certain race or religion. The development leads to the issue of minority in the workplace. The minorities become victims of discriminatory acts from their colleagues.

There are other cases involving unfair treatment of employees on the basis of sex. Some employers have the tendency of firing female employees after realizing that they have been victims of domestic violence (Grofman, 2000). Such employers try to justify their actions by claiming that battered women bring personal issues to the workplace. In addition, male employees may be given more freedom compared to their female counterparts. For example, there are cases where male workers are granted unpaid leave, while females are denied the same. The discrepancies persist in spite of the fact that the reasons for the time-off may be similar.

Cases of sexual harassment in the workplace are still reported today. Such harassment acts violate Title VII if they are frequently carried out and create an unfriendly work environment. The cases may also be regarded as a breach of the act if they lead to firing or denial of promotion. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has received more than 93,727 reports of such complaints (Gold, 2011). Most of the victims claim to have been treated unfairly a number of times. Discrimination on the basis of race is ranked the highest.

The government has made efforts to form a commission to enforce the act. However, cases of discrimination are still reported. In most cases, the government lacks adequate mechanisms to guarantee implementation of the law (Mayer, 2004). Such inadequacies are explained by the fact that the operations of most companies go against the act, yet the government fails to act. The reason is because the decision to treat some employees unfairly is made by high ranking executives in the company. As a result, the cases are kept secret. In addition, various organizations operate on a rule specifying that a certain percentage of workers should be from a particular race. The regulation greatly encourages discrimination in the labor market. In some instances, the government lacks powers to counter such rules.

Employers are only allowed to engage in discrimination in very rare circumstances. An example is discrimination on grounds of a protected trait where a given feature is a bona fide job-related qualification needed for the normal business operation. An employer must state three elements to come up with such a bona fide defense (Gold, 2011). They include a straight affiliation between the protected feature and the capacity to execute the task at hand. The element relates to the core duty of the employer’s business. In addition, there should be ‘no less-restrictive’ option. However, customer’s partiality towards people of a specific religion does not qualify as a bona fide justification.

Analysis of the Act’s Efficiency

The enactment of the legislation is associated with a number of benefits. The benefits are especially applicable to the labor market. The act has led to the employment of minority groups in the economy. An example is the hiring of persons from the African-American community. Generally, the act is considered as one of the best laws enacted in the last century (Gold, 2011).

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However, the act has attracted some measure of criticism from the society. Some people view it as the government’s efforts to transform personal preferences. However, it appears that most individuals attack the law without applying logic. Prohibiting discrimination has led to increased economic growth (Mayer, 2004). The reason behind this is the fact that employees in a non-discriminatory labor environment work together to enhance maximum production.

The decree can be regarded to be efficient considering the changes it has effected in the American Society. Following its enactment, most discriminatory cases have been addressed. Some companies no longer take into consideration the issue of race, color, and origin when recruiting employees. Enforcement agencies have been able to determine companies and employers who violate their employees’ rights (Grofman, 2000). Numerous lawsuits have been filed and appropriate actions taken against people who go against the law.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is efficient considering that it has helped the economy to maximize the potential of the labor market. The act has reduced cases of discrimination at the workplace. To this end, female professionals can now venture in sectors that were hitherto regarded as the preserve of the male. Title VII has purged most of the monopolistic behaviors practiced in hospitals to drive nurses away. The law has ensured that pregnant women are accorded fair treatment by employers and colleagues (Gold, 2011). Pregnancy does not make one a less being compared to the others. Women are able to work freely without the fear of being fired.

Title VII has been effective in the sense that it has reduced the tendencies of workers changing their religion. In the past, some people had to change their religion to get employed in certain companies. For example, in the past, it was hard for Christians or Jews to get employed in organizations owned or controlled by Muslims. The same applied to Muslims seeking employment in entities owned by Christians. Cases of sexual harassment in the workplace have also reduced significantly (Mayer, 2004). Currently, any form of sexual harassment is prohibited by the law. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is able to investigate such forms of prejudice. The efforts of this agency have encouraged transgender persons to venture into the labor market. In essence, every person has the right to seek employment in any field they are qualified in. The main requirement for employment is qualification on the basis of experience and education level.

Implementation of the Act

After the civil war, a number of constitutional amendments were carried out. The war took place between 1861 and 1865. The amendments abolished slavery and made all slaves American citizens. In addition, all men were granted the right to vote regardless of their race or origin. For several decades, the United States Congress had not passed any civil rights act (Grofman, 2000). The Civil Rights Section of the Justice Department was founded in 1957. A Commission on Civil Rights was formed the same year to investigate the discrimination cases.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is enforced by the EEOC. The commission comprises of five members. They are all appointed by the United States President. However, there are other state fair employment practices agencies (FEPAs) that help in executing the law. The EEOC and the FEPAs are charged with the responsibility of investigating and mediating cases of discrimination (Mayer, 2004). In addition, the bodies have the right to file court charges on behalf of the workers. At times, a national law contradicts the state law. In such instances, the decree is overruled. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also rules that an employee can file a private law suit. However, the unfair treatment complaint should be filed within a period of 180 days. That is after being aware the of the discrimination act. If the law suit is not filed within the stipulated time, the case is disbanded.

Sexual harassment was first considered to be prohibited under Title VII in the late 1970s. One remarkable sexual harassment case was between Chrapliwy versus Uniroyal (Grofman, 2000). In the end the plaintiff emerged victorious. Same-sex sexual harassment cases are also barred under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That was after an undisputed verdict written by Justice Scalia. In 1978, the decree was further amended (Gold, 2011). It declared that prejudice against expectant women was unlawful. In 2012, employment biasness on grounds of transgender was banned by the Civil Rights Act. The inequity was regardless of whether it was influence by factors such as sex stereotyping and uneasiness when relating with an individual who has undergone sex change. The ruling was influenced by the EEOC.

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To ensure better implementation of the Act, more active efforts have been conducted to increase Title VII decree awareness (Gold, 2011). That is on remedies for sexually discriminated persons. The efforts to promote awareness are greatly influenced by Commissioner Chai Feldblum. Apart from visiting the EEOC offices, one can read the rules stipulated the under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from their website.

Evaluation of the Act

The act has been a very beneficial to millions of citizens in the United States. The body responsible for implementing the decree has also done a great job in helping victims of discrimination. However, cases of unequal treatment have not totally been controlled in all sectors. The EEOC body is responsible for helping the victims to file law suits (Mayer, 2004). Through the initiative, many individuals have been helped. Despite the efforts, the process of filing a complaint has its pros and cons. The advantages include there is no express cost to the chapter. However substantial resources are disbursed. That is in stances where the Field Agency tackles the case. The obligation of just representation is not relevant. Cases need to have merit before a member can present a complaint (Gold, 2011). In some instances, the Equal Employment Opportunity commission acts the only place of refuge. That is for employees who want to challenge their employees for firing them on discrimination basis.

There are a number of disadvantages that can in handy with filling inequity complaints. The process is at times tremendously time-consuming. The EEOC agencies desks are at times full of complaints (Gold, 2011). That makes it difficult for the firm to handle each case presented before it. Instances of unfairness are also experienced within the Equity Commission. That is mainly during the initial stages going forth to the real complaint at hand. Some the administrative judges present biased judgments. The firms responsible for ensuring proper implementation of the law ignore the judges ruling. As a result, issues of filing for appeals arise. That leads to delaying of the discrimination case.

Some employees have the tendency of faking legal arguments that seem accurate and honest. In the end, it becomes very difficult to determine the genuine party in the case. Such mannerisms have lead to various employees being charged for wrongs not committed. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is charged with the responsibility of hiring a lawyer to represent the complainant (Mayer, 2004). However, employees who are not represented by the commission are forced to hire attorneys. That is done at the hearing level. It is the only way through which the victim can win the case.

Recommendations

Despite the Title VII benefits to the society and labor market as a whole. The EEOC should come up with better measure to counter discrimination practices. Most businesses still condone inequity to the highest levels (Gold, 2011). However, the commission is faced with challenge of dealing with such companies. The equity commission should hire more officials. That will reduce overworking of the officials and ensure more consistency. With more officials, the commission will be able to handle the numerous cases presented to them every day.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should include more rules and regulations pertaining to discrimination. The degree should allow for re-organization or merging of unions responsible for implementing the law (Mayer, 2004). In addition, the commission should establish ways to counter fabricated complaints of discrimination. Stiffer penalties should be imposed to deter employers from engaging in the acts. The procedures for filing complaints need to be looked at. That is to ensure smooth flow of events. As a result, the process will consume less time. More employees will be encouraged to press fourth with the charges.

Biasness within the commission should be eliminated. When there is unfairness in the main body responsible for ensuring equal treatment, no progress can be achieved (Mayer, 2004). That will encourage the high ranking officials in business to exercise inequity. The judges charged with the responsibility of making rulings in court hearings should be guided by honesty and proper work ethics. Different religion, race, origin and sex are a platform of sharing different ideas in the labor market.

In addition, the United States Government should work more closely with the agencies responsible for implementing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Equity Employment Opportunity Commission and the other related agencies should be granted more powers to implement the law more effectively and efficiently.

Conclusion

Before the signing of the bill by President Lyndon B. Johnson, employers had the tendency of rejecting employees job application (Grofman, 2000). That was on the basis of sex, color, religion, and origin. Employers could for no good reason turn down a workers promotion. That was regardless of the qualifications. The African-American community was the most affected at the time. Apart from prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, the Decree barred the use of national funds to support any inequity program (Mayer, 2004). Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. saw enactment of the act as a second liberation. Later on, the Civil Rights Act grew to incorporate the disabled American Citizens and the elderly in it regulations.

The enactment of the Title VII led to passing of two key Acts. They include Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act. The Voting Rights Act barred literacy tests carried out during voting. The Housing act prohibited prejudice in the sale, leasing and financing of assets (Gold, 2011). Signing of the law did not stop racism practices in America. However, it had a major impact on legal segregation. Generally, the Civil Rights Act was a positive move towards ensuring equality.

References

Bumgarner, J. (2006). Federal agents the growth of federal law enforcement in America. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.

Gold, S. (2011). The Civil Rights Act of 1964. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark.

Grofman, B. (2000). Legacies of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia.

Mayer, R. (2004). The Civil Rights Act of 1964. San Diego: Greenhaven Press.

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