Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972

views updated


The Equal Employment Opportunity Act (Public Law 92261) of 1972 was designed to prohibit job discrimination for reasons of race, religion, color, national origin, and sex. The term equal, however, must be interpreted correctly as it applies to this legislation. It does not mean that every applicant or employee must be considered equal in ability or competency. Rather, it means that the law looks at all applicants or employees as equals, who deserve fair treatment.

Specifically, it requires that no applicant or employee may be rejected from employment or treated unfairly solely because of race, religion, color, national origin, or sex. The law requires that the most competent applicants be hired and the most competent employees be promoted.

The law does not promise a job or a promotion. It is meant to level the playing field and make the rules the same for all applicants and employees. Equal employment opportunity programs include affirmative action for employment, as well as means for handling discrimination complaints. The law applies to everyone who is in a position to hire individuals.

Laws relating to equal employment opportunity date back to the Civil Rights Act of 1883, which prohibited favoritism in federal employment. In 1940 Executive Order 0948 prohibited discrimination in federal agencies based on race, creed, or color. In 1961 Executive Order 10925 required that positive steps be taken to eliminate workplace discrimination in federal agencies. The next landmark act influencing equal employment opportunity was the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibited the payment of different wages to workers for substantially similar work on the basis of sex. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964which prohibited discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin and established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissionwas a very important piece of legislation for the movement.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1995 prohibits discrimination based on the following items: impairment, marital status, political belief or activity, race, religion, sex, social status as a person, age, role in business dealings, lawful sexual activity, physical features, pregnancy, position or past employment position, and association with a person who is identified by reference to any of the foregoing thirteen grounds. Also prohibited is sexual harassment, which applies to both employers and employees.

see also Diversity in the Workplace; Sexual Harassment


U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. http://www.eeoc.gov/ retrieved February 3, 2006.

Lawrence F. Peters, Jr.