Thursday, February 28, 2013

EEO Laws - Civil Rights Act of 1991 (1991 CRA)

Confused yet?  There is a law that was produced in 1991 that clearly defined and undefined different legal actions in the name of Civil Rights.  It has a very muddled history, and I certainly cannot do it justice here in my short post.  As always, feel free to leave a comment or opinion below.  Without further ado, let us now discuss...

EEO Laws - Civil Rights Act of 1991 (1991 CRA)

The 1991 Act provided some changes to the Civil Rights Act, correcting and amending things that had come about since Title VII first went into effect.  The 1991 Act allowed emotional and punitive damages to be sued for under Title VII.  It put in place some caps on damages that could be sought in discrimination trials.  It also allowed parties to receive jury trials and reinterpreted disparate impact in law.


Prior to the 1991 CRA, there had been a controversial 1989 case that was decided on by the Supreme Court.  In “Price Waterhouse v Hopkins,” the Supreme Court found that an employee that was unjustly bypassed for promotion due to sexual discrimination could not sue because she would have been bypassed for promotion anyway due to performance.  This upset many individuals, prompting action by Congress.  This act sought to merge portions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and borrowed some of the language from the failed Civil Rights Act of 1990.  Congress passed the 1991 Civil Rights Act to add some teeth to Title VII, allowing workers and applicants that felt that they had been discriminated against to sue for more than just backpay, but to allow them to seek out punitive damages and damages due to emotional distress. However, it also placed caps on the amounts that could be sought, attempting to limit the use of discrimination lawsuits.

Ending Affirmative Action?

As a result of some last minute language that was added to the 1991 CRA strictly prohibiting race, gender, ethnic, and religious minority status from being considered in any employment process, the government felt obligated to strip Affirmative Action programs from all federal employment processes.  This was not the intent of adding the language and additional language was added with a new clause, attempting to allow consideration for purposes of affirmative action.

The 1991 CRA has been found difficult by the courts to enforce due to the sometimes vague and contradictory.  Again, I am not doing it justice here.  There is a detailed description and history of it over at  that I highly suggest reading.

And remember all of you Human Resources professionals: Be Human... Be a Resource... Be a Resource for Humans.

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