Employment discrimination is an issue that touches many Americans. The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 did away with segregation and ensured working rights for African Americans and included the famous Title VII which prohibits employers to discriminate based on race, gender, religion or national origin.
Since that time, a number of employment discrimination cases have made their way to the Supreme Court and have effectively changed how employment discrimination law is practiced today. In this article, we’ll take a look at a few of the employment discrimination cases that were judged by the Supreme Court and have shaped the law as we know it today.
The first of the employment discrimination cases of note, Griggs versus Duke Power Company, dates from 1971 and was an important victory for African Americans. The Court decided that it is unlawful to expect that certain educational requirements be met or to administer intelligence tests that are not related to the job to be filled. In many cases, these requirements or intelligence tests were an underhanded way to exclude African Americans from being considered for employment.
The next of the important employment discrimination cases was an important victory for pregnant teachers – 1974’s Cleveland Board of Education versus LaFleur. At that time, public school boards had what would be considered archaic rules about at what point pregnant teachers would be forced to take their maternity leave. The Cleveland School Board required that pregnant teachers take unpaid leave five months before the expected childbirth and would not be permitted to return until the semester after the child reached the age of three months.
Another school board noted in the case, in Chesterfield County, Virginia, required teachers to take unpaid leave four months and to give notice six months before the birth and would not be eligible for the next school year after the first day of school. The Court recognized that each pregnant teacher’s case is different and that many are able to continue working through the end of the pregnancy, making these imposed rules by the school boards violations of the pregnant teachers’ guarantee of due process.
Many of the employment discrimination cases have to do with sexual discrimination. In 1986, the case of Meritor Savings Bank versus Vinson found that a claim of a “hostile environment” can be considered a form of sexual discrimination. The Oncale versus Sundowner Offshore Serv Inc case in 1987 found that same-sex harassment can be considered a form of sexual harassment as covered by Title VII.
In 1988, the case of Faragher versus City of Boca Raton found that an employer may be found liable for sexual discrimination caused by a supervisor, but liability will be dependant on the reasonableness of both the employers and the employee’s conduct.