50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

Signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Fifty years ago on July 2nd the Civil Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. In HR it is the foundational law that guides workplace actions around discrimination.

Title VII

Title VII established equal protection for people in the protected categories of race, religion, color, sex and national origin. Since that time many other protected categories have been added by additional laws or amendments. These include age, pregnancy, genetics, and disability. Additional protections are being introduced all the time in Congress, such as the ENDA, which, if passed would protect sexual orientation.
Title VII has a long and storied history and has produced monumental cases that define types of discrimination such as adverse impact as stated in Griggs v. Duke Power, a case that every HR person should know. There are many others. There are tens of thousands of claims of discrimination made on an annual basis, despite the fact that the law has been around for 50 years.

Prior to 1964

I tell my classes that the CRA was the first of many social laws that were to be enacted. Prior to this most of the law that affected the workplace was labor law, which was also the result of a social movement in a sense. But the CRA set the standard for social movement resulting in legislation. Disability awareness, women’s issues, the aging workforce, family, divorce and science have all resulted in legislation being passed to provide protections for groups in the workplace.

What about the other Titles?

In HR we are intimately familiar with Title VII, but have you ever wondered about the other Titles? Do you even know how many other titles there are? The answer to that is there at 11 titles in all. Here is what they deal with.

  • Title 1 – The unequal application of voter registration laws, a key issue in the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Title II – Barred discrimination in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters, and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce, but did exempt private clubs.
  • Title III – Prohibited state and municipal governments from denying access to public facilities on grounds of race, color, religion or national origin.
  • Title IV – School desegregation
  • Title V – Expanded the previously established Civil Rights Commission
  • Title VI – Prevented discrimination by government agencies receiving federal funds. This section states the general principle that no person in the United States shall be excluded from participation in or otherwise discriminated against on the ground of race, color, or national origin under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
  • Title VIII – Compiling voter registration data
  • Title IX – Dealt with the ability to move the jurisdiction of civil rights cases away from all white juries.
  • Title X – Created the Community Relations Service, to help with assisting in community disputes involving claims of discrimination.
  • Title XI – Gives a defendant accused of certain categories of criminal contempt in a matter arising under all the other Titles the right to a jury trial. If convicted, the defendant can be fined an amount not to exceed $1,000 or imprisoned for not more than six months.

So there you have a history lesson is a major law. It is important when dealing with laws to understand the history of how the law got where it is. It changes your perspective. As an example the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex was thought by many to be an attempt to defeat the law. Read Wikipedia, it is fascinating.

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