Many employers are familiar with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of this act extended numerous protections to employees, which included protections against discrimination on the grounds of someone’s national origin, race, religion or sex. However, the law was not perfect, and decades later the Civil Rights Act of 1991 was passed to amend certain issues. If you operate your own business, then it is important to understand this law so that you know what constitutes discrimination, and what can happen if your employees experience harassment in the workplace.
What Prompted This Law to Be Created?
The Civil Rights Act of 1991 was created to strengthen the Civil Rights Act of 1964 rather than replace it entirely. It really boils down to a set of Supreme Court cases:
The ultimate decision in each of these cases proved to be incredibly controversial and seemed to undermine workers’ rights. Congress realized changes needed to be made to the current set of laws, which is when a new Civil Rights Act was set to be made. In fact, a Civil Rights Act of 1990 was brought to President George H.W. Bush first but was ultimately vetoed. A year later, he approved the Civil Rights Act of 1991 after certain revisions were made.
Changes Brought by the Civil Rights Act of 1991
This new law basically reiterated the key components of the 1964 law, which stated that employees cannot be discriminated against based on their religion, race, national origin or sex. However, this law stated that the burden of proof was now one of persuasion rather than one of production. This proved to be incredibly helpful to workers, since in the case of Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, the court ruled that employees could not sue an employer for racial discrimination at the worksite because the business owner’s practices were not necessarily discriminatory. The court declared that the employers did not deny employees civil liberties in that case, because it was not proven that certain employees were not denied the same rights as their white counterparts.
Essentially, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 was brought into law to give civil rights groups more power in the courtroom. This law also means that employees’ cases can be brought to a jury trial as opposed to a judge trial, as was typical in the past. Generally speaking, employees are more sympathetic to workers than employers, so this was seen as a win for workers’ rights. Additionally, a cap was placed on how much could be rewarded to employees. The cap varies depending on the size of the business.
Areas the Civil Rights Act of 1991 Did Not Change
The new law did not alter the size of businesses falling under it. Therefore, this law only applies to businesses that employ 15 or more employees. However, other laws may be in place to protect employees who work at companies that employ fewer than 15 workers. This act also did not extend protections to employees on the basis of sexual orientation. However, many states have stepped up to protect workers against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
There are many more nuances of the law that you should look into to see what does and does not constitute discrimination. Overall, this act makes it much harder for you in the courtroom in the event an employee does sue you for discrimination, so brush up on the details.
The Civil Rights Act of 1991 offers more protections to employees and makes it harder for employers to defend themselves. However, as long as you treat everyone at your company fairly, there should not be any issues.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.