Summary of Major Equal Opportunity Laws

A brief review of some of the major federal nondiscrimination, equal opportunity, and affirmative action laws and executive orders follows:

Age Discrimination Act of 1975
Requires that: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of age, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity which receives or benefits from Federal financial assistance…" The Act permits specific exceptions, allowing use of age distinctions if it bears a direct and substantial relationship to the normal operation of the program, activity, or achievement of a statutory objective (for example, if a program provides special benefits to the elderly or to children).

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967
Prohibits employers of 20 or more employees from engaging in age-based discrimination against individuals who are age 40 or older, unless age is a bona fide job qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operations of the business. The law also covers employment agencies and labor organizations.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990
Mandates elimination of discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, access to public facilities and services, transportation, and telecommunications. Title I prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discrimination against qualified applicants and employees with disabilities in hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, job training, fringe benefits, and other aspects of employment. Individuals who are regarded as having a disability, when in fact they do not, and people who are associated with individuals with disabilities are also protected. Covered employers must provide qualified applicants and employees with disabilities with reasonable accommodations that do not impose undue hardship. The law covers most private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor organizations.

Title II requires that state and local government services, programs, and activities must be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Auxiliary aids and services and reasonable accommodations needed to participate in or benefit from a public entity's programs or services must be provided to qualified individuals with disabilities at no extra cost.

Title VII of the Civil Right Act (CRA) of 1964
Prohibits harassment and unequal treatment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in all areas of employment, from advertisement for new employees through termination or retirement. The Act applies to most employers with fifteen or more employees as well as employment agencies and labor organizations.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (CRA) of 1964
Prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in the provision of benefits and services in all programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

Civil Rights Act of 1991
Adds provisions to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to strengthen federal civil rights laws, including damages for intentional employment discrimination and right to jury trial.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
Discrimination against students on the basis of sex is prohibited in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Requires that: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

Equal Pay Act of 1963
Part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, this act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in compensation (including most fringe benefits) for substantially equal work in the same establishment. Wage differentials resulting from seniority, merit, or wage systems that base earning on quality or quantity of production and not the sex of the employee do not violate the act. Most private and public employers are covered.

Executive Order 11141>
This order prohibits age bias in employment by federal contractors.

Executive Orders 11246 and 11375
Prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin by employers doing business with the federal government and requires covered federal contractors to take affirmative action to ensure that equal opportunity is provided in all aspects of employment.

>Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA) of 1986
This act makes it illegal for employers of four or more workers to knowingly hire aliens who are not eligible to work in the United States. Employers are required to verify an individual's eligibility to work in the U.S. by examining identification documents required by law. The act also prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of citizenship or national origin against legal aliens

Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
Amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination against applicants and employees on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions. The act bars mandatory leave policies that require women to take leave at a predetermined time before their delivery date or refusal to grant leave when required under doctor's orders where such leave would be granted for other medical problems to non-pregnant employees.

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Prohibits employment discrimination based on disability and requires covered employers (federal contractors) to take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities who, with or without "reasonable accommodation," can perform the essential functions of the job. The regulations implementing the act require reasonable accommodations to known physical and mental limitations of qualified individual with disabilities.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Requires that: "No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program of activity receiving federal financial assistance."
Section 402 of Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) of 1974
Prohibits discrimination in employment practices on the basis of being either a veteran of the Vietnam era or a special disabled veteran and requires covered employers (federal contractors) to take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified Vietnam era veterans and special disabled veterans.