The key legislature is Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 (amended in 1972 to establish the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC] to enforce the provisions of Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, religion, color, or national origin. These requirements for nondiscriminatory treatment are called equal employment opportunity (EEO) requirements. They apply to virtually all private and public organizations.
Although the original legislation did not apply to people working outside US boundaries, the 1991 Civil Rights Act extended protection to US citizens who are employed in a foreign country by American owned or controlled companies. Executive Orders 11246 and 11375 of 1965 and 1968 (amended in 1977) require, in addition, that firms doing business with the federal government make concentrated efforts to recruit, hire, and promote women and members of minority groups. These concentrated efforts define the “affirmative” in affirmative action (AA).
At Tenneco Inc., affirmative action is more than a legal mandate; it is becoming reality. The company has introduced a variety of initiatives aimed at encouraging the advancement of women and minorities. In the early 1980s, the organization recognized the importance of promoting women and minorities in its executive resources review and functional review process. In the late 1980s, the Multicultural Advisory Council and the Women’s Advisory Council were developed. In addition, Tenneco links executive incentive bonuses to affirmative action performance, and has developed the Work/Family Support Program to help employees balance their work and family lives.
Women are also making inroads at J C Penney. In the late 1980s, William R Howell, Penney’s chairman and CEO, approached Gale Bloom, then manager of investor relations, and asked her to take an active role in helping women break through the glass ceiling and reach senior management positions. Duff Bloom therefore established and chaired the Women’s Advisory Team. Its goal was to create an environment more sensitive to the needs of female employees. For the first time Duff Bloom recalled, subjects that were considered taboo were discussed openly between management and employees. Duff Bloom became the executive vice president and director of administration for J C Penney in April 1993. Diversity isn’t a numbers game at the Penney Company, she asserted. We are building our company based on the talent that we already have.
The Equal Pay Act, originally introduced in 1946, prohibits discrimination in which employers pay men more than women for performing jobs requiring substantially equal skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions. Thus, the Equal Pay Act requires equal pay – like pay for like jobs.
A more recent approach to fairness in pay is known as comparable worth. Comparable worth is the principle that different jobs that require comparable skills and knowledge deserve comparable pay. This idea evolved from the observation that women tended to be segregated in certain occupations, such as nursing and teaching that are lower paying than some male dominated fields despite similar educational requirements and responsibilities. In fact, some women-dominated fields require more education than better paying men’s jobs. Over and over again, statistics show that women make less than 70 cents for every dollar men earn. Much of this difference is attributed to occupational segregation. By taking into account the actual skills and knowledge needed for jobs, the principle of comparable worth seeks to invalidate patterns of wage and job discrimination that have often established or influenced salary guidelines.
The employment rights of persons 40 and older are protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (amended in 1986). The Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (amended in 1974) added protection for the physically and mentally disabled if they were qualified to perform job tasks with reasonable accommodation by the employer. The Veterans’ Readjustment Act of 1974 requires those doing business with the federal government to extend affirmative action programs to veterans of the Vietnam War era and to disabled veterans in general.