Fair Employment Practices

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Beginning in the 1960s Congress passed a series of laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on a variety of factors. These laws are the underpinnings of fair employment practices in the United States. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, besides prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, also established is the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Congress charged the EEOC with enforcing fair employment practices.

Additional laws the EEOC enforces are: (1) the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in compensation for similar jobs under similar conditions; (2) Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) prohibiting job discrimination against persons 40 years of age and older; (3) Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibiting employment discrimination against federal employees with disabilities; (4) Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of disability in both public and private sectors, excluding the federal government; and (5) the Civil Rights Act of 1991 that includes provisions for monetary damages in cases of intentional discrimination.

The EEOC has 50 field offices throughout the United States. It investigates complaints of job discrimination filed by individuals or groups such as labor unions and employment agencies. If the EEOC finds "reasonable cause" that discrimination occurred and it seeks voluntary resolution of the dispute. If voluntary resolution is unsuccessful the EEOC may bring suit in federal court.

The EEOC issues guidance in interpreting the laws it enforces, administers the federal sector employment discrimination program, and provides extensive education and outreach with seminars and with information on the Internet. It provides funding and lends support to approximately 90 state and local fair employment practices agencies that process discrimination claims under federal laws as well as state and local employment discrimination charges.

See also: Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Labor Standards Act