A letter from William H. Brown, III
Chairman of the EEOC, 1969-1973
It is hard to believe that more than 30 years have elapsed since passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, nearly 30 years since the inception of its effective date, and more than 21 years since I left the post of Chairman of the EEOC in December of 1973. During these periods of time we have seen significant changes in the composition of the workforce, both in the public and private sectors. In reminiscing about the years I served as Chairman of EEOC, four things come to mind as major accomplishments of my administration.
The most important action taken by the Commission from 1969 to 1973 was that action against AT&T. I place this first partly because it changed how most of corporate America viewed the Commission, and how it responded to charges filed against them, but also because enforcement powers were not granted until well after the action against AT&T.
The Commission voted to intercede in the telephone rate case being presented by AT&T to the Federal Communications Commission. Our position was that because of discriminatory practices, costs for telephone services were higher than they would have been otherwise. Lacking enforcement powers, the Commission hoped to piggyback on the enforcement powers of FCC. The FCC denied our motion to intervene in the rate case, but did agree to hold separate hearings on our charges of discrimination. Our case clearly showed discrimination by the various operating units of AT&T against women and minorities. The case, which was settled in early 1973 by consent decree, set the stage for other major corporations to seriously consider changing their ways of hiring and promoting women and minorities. I believe the settlement of the AT&T case did more to change the corporation profile of this country than any other litigation initiated before or since.
The second major accomplishment was securing enforcement powers granted to the EEOC under the 1972 amendments. The lack of enforcement power had hampered our efforts to eradicate discrimination from its inception. Through the use of court enforcement powers, the EEOC has instituted many lawsuits that have pushed Title VII enforcement beyond what most individuals envisioned. The ability to go directly into court with our won attorneys clearly speeded up the change in attitude by major corporations and secured appropriate relief for tens of thousands of people.
The third area relates to the granting of enforcement powers: establishment of five regional litigating centers in Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Denver, each staffed with 30 lawyers. The litigating centers' purpose was to handle national, regional and individual complaints in as cost-effective a manner as possible. Under the 1972 amendments, the number of EEOC lawyers jumped from 40 to more than 250. Enforcement powers were granted in the Spring of 1972 and the centers were running by the end of that year.
The fourth major accomplishment was the Resource Allocation Program, instituted in late1972. Forty percent of Commission resources were to be focused on handling major cases, looking at major employers and their practices nationwide. Another 25 percent of resources were to be focused on employers that had a major impact on a regional level. The Commission would identify employers with the greatest impact in a particular region, and then pursue them to change their hiring and promotion practices region-wide. Another 10 to 15 percent of resources were to be devoted to resolving issues cases were selected not by who the employer was but because an issue had to be decided or clarified by the courts. Remaining resources were to be focused on individual charges. Other accomplishments include the complete reorganization of the Commission and the promotion of minorities and women into Senior Executive-level positions.
I was indeed fortunate to have had the support of outstanding employees who truly believe in the mission of the agency and who devoted enormous time and energy toward eliminating discrimination in all of its insidious forms. I am proud that I had the privilege of serving as Chairman of this agency during a time when the EEOC was recognized as a fiercely independent agency with a reputation as an advocate for those who had been discriminated against. Of equal importance, I am proud of our well-deserved reputation for fairness.
The agency today is as critically important to the future of this country as it has been at any point in its history.
See also: Chairman William H. Brown, III's bio