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How Did the Civil Rights Act Affect Employment?

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation that made various forms of discrimination illegal, banning it throughout public places and enforcing the right for all citizens to vote.

Many employment best practices today arose from previous lawsuits, defining workplace protections and giving the law the power to impose steep penalties on businesses that violated them. A civil rights lawyer should be your first call if you feel that you have been discriminated against or harassed in a workplace.

Employment Civil Rights Breaches

Civil rights violations relate to any negative outcome that impacts your employment, or the nature of your job, on a discriminatory basis.

What is an example of a civil violation in the workplace? It could include being paid less based on ethnicity or being refused a job opportunity because of your gender. While today’s younger generations might not believe it was ever possible to deny an applicant a role because of their race or gender, before 1964, it was a common occurrence.

One of the most influential parts of the Civil Rights Act was the ban on private workplace discrimination–which, in time, has changed public perceptions of this behavior as wholly unacceptable. This legislation bridged the gap between privately owned businesses and public services to make equality a legal right in all places of work.

How Has the Civil Rights Act Shaped Modern Employment Practices?

The law is more than a safeguard against discrimination in promotions or hiring; it also oversees any other action affecting the terms of employment.

For example, employers cannot:

  • Pay one staff member more than another for the same role
  • Pick colleagues for promotion based on ethnicity or age
  • Select employees for training opportunities on an unfair basis

Unintentional discrimination is also illegal. A real-life case study occurred when a lawsuit challenged the exams used in firefighter promotional selections–the exams were weighted to avoid promoting ethnic minorities or women. Although the test criteria may not have been purposefully designed to favor white men, the outcome was the same, and the courts upheld the claim.

The Place of the Civil Rights Act in the 21st Century Workplace

The employment climate has changed significantly in the last sixty years, but there is still work to do, and civil rights breaches remain a serious violation. Gender pay gaps remain an issue, whereby women in the US earn an average of $0.82 for each $1.00 made by their male counterparts.

Further marginalized groups are also being recognized and draw on the principles of the Civil Rights Act to define fair treatment. Over time, the implementation of the law has also shifted from being primarily used to pursue legal action for disparate hiring practices. Many civil rights lawsuits related to employment focus on fair access to promotions or unfair dismissal. Defining discrimination is not always clear-cut, but there are many scenarios where discrimination–deliberate or otherwise–is a civil rights breach. 

The equality enforced by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 remains vital to today’s working population and continues to provide the backbone of worker protections based on race, ethnicity, and gender. 




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