Human Resource Management
July 24, 2006
Through the years the American workforce has become increasingly diverse; caused in large part by the globalization of the American economy, and the growth of the workforce in the areas of minority, women, and immigrant employment. Traditionally, individuals have been expected to assimilate into the standard way of doing things, accepting the burden of change and adjustment. However, this is no longer the case. This idea has been replaced with a workforce of individuals that instead chooses to maintain their individual identities, placing the burden of adjustment back on the employer. While a fair portion of the changes in cultural and social acceptance comes from the day-to-day activities of societal involvement, this is not enough. To achieve a truly diverse workforce it has been necessary to take the further steps of legislation and cultural awareness training. Although these changes have brought some positive results, whether they have accomplished their long-term goals has yet to be determined. While the workforce has become more diverse, the thoughts and feelings of many of those within it have remained caught in the past, making it necessary for legislation to try and accomplish what common sense should have. Employment discrimination, or the unequal treatment of employees or job applicants on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, or disability, is addressed by several federal statutes: The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and most importantly, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as its amendments, ¡§prohibits employment discrimination against employees, job applicants, and union members on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, and gender at any stage or employment.¡¨ It also protects employees from sexual harassment, as well as online harassment through inappropriate email or online information. In one such case in 1983, Tammy Blakely, the first female airbus pilot for Continental, filed suit alleging sexual harassment and sex discrimination under Title VII. Continental allegedly did not respond to her repeated complaints about pornography left in the cockpit by male pilots. While the lawsuit was still pending in 1995, various co-workers posted a series of unflattering messages concerning Blakely on an Internet bulletin board for pilots called the Crew Members Forum. Blakely sued seven pilots in state court, claiming that defamatory statements were published on the system. She also sued Continental, arguing that the airline was liable for the defamatory statements giving rise to the hostile work environment. Before an alleged victim of discrimination can bring a suit against an employer they must first file a claim with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, the entity responsible for monitoring compliance with Title VII. The EEOC may investigate the dispute and try to get both parties to consent to an out-of-court settlement. If not successful, the EEOC may then file a suit on behalf of the employee against the employer. If the EEOC decides not to investigate, the victim may bring their own lawsuit against the employer.
The EEOC does not investigate every discrimination claim, but rather only those that are of a high priority, such as the firing of an employee for submitting a claim to the EEOC, and those claims involving certain types of discrimination such as disparate-treatment discrimination and disparate-impact discrimination. Disparate-treatment discrimination occurs when an employer intentionally discriminates against employees who are members of one or more protected classes, such as the denial of an employment opportunity to an individual based on the color of their skin. Disparate-impact discrimination occurs when certain employer practices,...