../plan.css"> The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

General Statement of Laws

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was established by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (78 Stat. 253, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq.) as amended, and became operational on July 2, 1965. The Commission has five members, no more than three of whom shall be of the same political party. The members are appointed by the President, by and with the consent of the Senate, for rotating 5-year terms. The President designates one member to serve as Chairman and one member to serve as Vice Chairman. The General Counsel is also appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, for a term of 4 years.

The Commission has been charged with promoting equal opportunity in employment by enforcing the federal civil rights employment laws through administrative and judicial actions, and education and technical assistance. The agency fulfills its mission through the implementation of a vigorous law enforcement program, as well as conducting an outreach program to provide information, guidance and technical assistance to help prevent discrimination from occurring.

Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin by federal and private employers with 15 or more employees, public and private employment agencies, labor organizations with 15 or more members, agencies which refer persons for employment or which represent employees or employers covered by the Act, and joint labor-management apprenticeship programs for covered employers and labor organizations.

Pursuant to Section 709(c) of Title VII, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires the filing of periodic reports by public and private employers, unions and labor organizations providing data on the makeup of their workforces or membership by gender and racial/ethnic categories. The data are also used by other federal, State and Local agencies charged with enforcement of equal employment opportunity laws, and in aggregate form by non-government organizations and researchers concerned with equal employment opportunity.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 (Public Law 92-261) amended Title VII to authorize the Commission to file suit in federal District Court in order to achieve compliance with Title VII if it is unable to achieve a remedy through conciliation. If the case involves a State or Local government, the Commission will refer it to the Attorney General, who may file suit in federal Court. The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 also extended Title VII's coverage to State and Local governments as well as to institutions of higher education.

In 1979, EEOC received additional jurisdictional responsibilities as part of Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1978: enforcement of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967, as amended; the Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963; Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and Section 717 of Title VII. ADEA protects workers age 40 and older from discrimination in hiring, discharge, pay, promotions, fringe benefits, and other aspects of employment by employers having 20 or more employees. The EPA prohibits gender based discrimination in the payment of wages to men and women performing substantially equal work in the same establishment. The Commission receives and investigates charges of discrimination in these areas and makes findings of "violation" or "no violation" and may file suit in Federal District Court if it is unable to achieve voluntary resolution of violations through conciliation.

Section 717 of Title VII, Section 15 of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which bar discrimination by federal agencies on the basis of disability provided the basis for Commission oversight responsibility for the procedures used by federal departments and agencies in processing internal complaints of discrimination. In addition, the Commission has appellate jurisdiction to review final decisions of departments or agencies on discrimination complaints upon the request of the complainant. It is also responsible for ensuring that federal departments and agencies maintain programs of equal employment opportunity. Further, under Executive Order 12067, the Commission provides leadership and coordination to all federal departments and agencies' programs enforcing federal statutes, executive orders, regulations, and policies which require equal employment opportunity without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. Coordination is provided to eliminate conflict, competition, duplication, and inconsistency in these programs and to improve their effectiveness. All federal departments and agencies are required to cooperate with and assist the Commission in performing these functions and are required to furnish the Commission with such reports and information as it may require.

On July 26, 1990, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) became law. The ADA became effective on July 26, 1992, for employers with 25 or more employees and on July 26, 1994, for employers with 15-24 employees. This legislation, covering some 43,000,000 Americans having one or more physical or mental disabilities, provides a clear and comprehensive mandate for enforcing the laws prohibiting discrimination in employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. EEOC is responsible for ensuring compliance with Title I of this statute and in coordination with the Attorney General, for providing technical assistance to those with rights and responsibilities under the Act.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991, which amends Title VII, addresses a number of subjects, including disparate impact, business necessity, bias after hiring, challenges to consent decrees, timeliness of challenges to seniority systems, mixed motives, expert witness fees, extraterritoriality, compensatory and punitive damages, jury trials, interest and filing times in actions against the federal government. The Act also mandated the EEOC to carry out educational and outreach activities.

The private (non-federal) sector of the Commission, through its field and headquarters offices, is responsible for receiving and investigating charges of employment discrimination under the various laws it enforces. Individual Commissioners may initiate charges based on information suggesting that the law has been violated. If the Commission decides after investigation that reasonable cause exists to believe that a violation has occurred, remedial relief is sought through the process of conciliation.

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This page was last modified on May 3, 2001.

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