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EEOC History: 1970 - 1979

Milestones: 1970

Charges of Discrimination Handled
FY 1966 8,854
FY 1967 12,927
FY 1968 15,058
FY 1969 17,272
FY 1970 20,310
  • EEOC, in cooperation with the National Association of Manufacturers, holds a nationwide closed circuit teleconference on equal employment opportunities which is telecast simultaneously to 14 cities. The teleconference provides an opportunity for approximately 2,800 business men and women to hear Commissioners and EEOC managers discuss the responsibilities and obligations of employers under Title VII and to have their questions on fair employment laws answered by a panel of experts.
  • In December, EEOC petitions the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject a massive long-distance telephone rate increase sought by the American Telephone and Telegraph Co. (AT&T). It was not clear whether EEOC could actually intervene before a federal regulatory agency. EEOC's petition is the first attempt by a federal civil rights agency to enlist the support of a federal regulatory agency in the battle to eliminate job discrimination. EEOC's petition argues that the granting of a rate increase by the FCC would be both unconstitutional and contrary to the public interest because AT&T had engaged and continued to engage in extensive violations of federal and state prohibitions against discrimination in employment. The Commission had received more than 1,500 charges against AT&T which represents 7 percent of EEOC's workload. EEOC argues that employment discrimination at the telephone company cause high turnover between employees and other inefficiencies which in turn raise operating costs. Civil rights groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and the National Organizational of Women (NOW) also charge the phone company with employment discrimination against minorities and women.
    Chair Brown and AT&T officials sign settlement agreement

    Chair William H. Brown III and AT&T officials sign landmark consent decree, January 18, 1973

  • EEOC holds public hearings in Houston, the largest population center in the south. EEOC is concerned that despite an expanding economy and rising employment opportunities, minorities are concentrated in unskilled, lower-paying occupations. Of the 31 companies asked to testify, 19 refuse. None of the eight large unions invited to testify responds. EEOC issues a report documenting continuing inequalities in employment and only minimal improvement since passage of Title VII. The report states that "[t]he Commission was startled by the gap between promise and performance in Houston," and urges Congress to grant the agency "law enforcement powers." The Los Angeles Times of June 8, 1970 reports:

    The complaint of blacks is that they have trained hundreds and hundreds of white persons who have gone on to become their bosses and their bosses' bosses, testified Pluria Marshall . . . .

    The four days of hearings also brought out the fact that there was a formidable distance between a firm's official hiring practice and what really occurs in the personnel office. In Houston, where there are jobs available, many firms still require all employees to have at least a high school diploma. This automatically disqualifies many minority groups, particularly Mexican Americans, and sets standards far higher than indicated necessary by job analysis, according to Dr. William H. Enneis, an EEOC psychiatrist.

    Another hurdle for minorities is the testing method used by most firms, he said. Most testing falls short of any mark of achievement . . . most of the time the tests are not applied correctly, they are not closely related to the job, some purposely weed out minorities and -- most important -- are based on the assumption that minority applicants have been exposed to the same general opportunity as Caucasians.

    Many of the black leaders who testified said that despite grandiose statements from large industries, hiring practices still go no further than tokenism and many Negroes are employed simply as 'window dressing' for some firms.

    The hearing was unique in one respect. It was the first time that a number of women had testified at such length about sex discrimination in jobs.

  • EEOC publishes revised Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures, which interpret Title VII to permit only professionally developed ability and aptitude tests that are job related and consistent with business necessity. Tests are valid only if they accurately predict job performance or relate to the actual skills required by the job.
  • EEOC issues Guidelines on Discrimination Because of National Origin. EEOC declares that the ban on national origin discrimination extends to characteristics generally associated with a particular national origin. Employers are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of language requirements, height and weight standards, or ethnic stereotypes.
  • Working to develop close relationships with other federal agencies, EEOC enters into its first Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Labor (DOL). DOL enforces Executive Order 11246, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, which imposes nondiscrimination and affirmative action requirements as a condition of doing business with the Federal Government. The two agencies agree to share information and coordinate investigations of government contractors. Additionally, when EEOC finds a violation of Title VII but is unable to secure an acceptable agreement, then EEOC will refer the charge to DOL to institute an enforcement action under the Executive Order.


Milestones: 1971

  • The Supreme Court in Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corp. holds that Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination means that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of sex plus other factors such as having school age children. In practical terms, EEOC's policy forbids employers from using one hiring policy for women with small children and a different policy for males with children of a similar age.
  • In Griggs v. Duke Power Co., the Supreme Court decides that where an employer uses a neutral policy or rule, or utilizes a neutral test, and this policy or test disproportionately affects minorities or women in an adverse manner, then the employer must justify the neutral rule or test by proving it is justified by business necessity. The Court reasons that Congress directed the thrust of Title VII to the consequences of employment practices, not simply the motivation. This decision paves the way for EEOC and charging parties to challenge employment practices that shut out groups if the employer cannot show the policy is justified by business necessity.
  • Congress holds hearings on amending Title VII. A Senate Report declares, "During the six years since its inception, EEOC has made a heroic attempt to reduce the incidence of employment discrimination in the nation . . . ." The Senate report states that, "employment discrimination is even more pervasive and tenacious than the Congress had assumed it to be at the time it passed the 1964 Act. It affects employees in both the private and the public sectors as well as those working in large and small establishments." Congress finds little progress by minorities in any occupational field and significant pay disparities for women. A consensus grows that the "voluntary conciliation approach" of the 1964 Act is inadequate to the task, as the number of charges filed grows dramatically each year while EEOC "presents largely an ineffectual threat" to employers. There is disagreement, however, on what enforcement powers should be given to EEOC. Bills are introduced granting EEOC authority to issue mandatory "cease and desist" orders.
  • The final public hearings held by the Commission between 1965 and 1972 take place in Washington, D.C. in November 1971 examining the employment practices of the gas and utilities industry. Research papers resulting from the hearing show the general underutilization of women and minorities in these industries. As a result, nine Commissioner charges are filed against utility firms; one charge is referred to the Department of Justice for suit and technical assistance is provided to six firms.
  • An EEOC-sponsored film, "Voice of La Raza," narrated by film star Anthony Quinn, was made available and widely shown to the employer community, labor unions, and civil rights groups. The film dealt with unique job discrimination problems faced by 10 million Spanish-speaking Americans.
    Excerpt from "Voice of La Raza"
    Full video is available at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image
  • EEOC now has seven regional offices and 27 district offices nationwide. Field directors are delegated authority to issue Findings of Fact to the parties to a charge. The parties then have the right to file exceptions to the Findings before the Commission makes its decision.


Milestones: 1972

  • In its fourth attempt to improve Title VII's effectiveness since its enactment in 1964, Congress amends Title VII by approving the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972. The report accompanying the bill states: "The time has come for Congress to correct the defects in its own legislation. The promises of equal job opportunity made in 1964 must [now] be made realities . . . ." Accordingly, the 1972 amendments are designed to give EEOC the authority to "back up" its administrative findings and to increase the jurisdiction and reach of the agency.

    The amendments result in the following:

    (1) EEOC has litigation authority. If the agency cannot secure an acceptable conciliation agreement, it has the option of suing nongovernment respondents -- employers, unions, and employment agencies.

    (2) Educational institutions are subject to Title VII. Congress found that discrimination against minorities and women in the field of education was just as pervasive as discrimination in any other area of employment.

    (3) State and local governments are no longer exempt from Title VII. Removal of this exemption results in 10 million more employees being immediately added to Title VII's coverage.

    (4) The Federal Government is subject to Title VII. Federal executive agencies and defined units of the other branches must make all personnel actions free from discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin.

    (5) The number of employers covered by Title VII is increased by reducing the number of employees (from 25 to 15) needed for an employer to be covered by the Act.

    (6) Charging parties have a longer period of time to file their charges, 180 or 300 days rather than 90 or 210 days. Additionally, charging parties now have 90 days rather than 30 days to file a lawsuit after EEOC has informed them that it is no longer working on their charge. This extension of time affords charging parties a better chance to find a lawyer if they wish to pursue their charges in court.

  • As a result of the 1972 Amendments, the President, rather than the EEOC Chairman, selects the agency's General Counsel. President Richard M. Nixon nominates and the Senate confirms William Carey to be the EEOC General Counsel.
  • The Commission delegates to District Directors and Regional Directors the authority to issue "Reasonable Cause" and "No Reasonable Cause" Letters of Determination in those cases where the Commission has already decided the issue involved (Commission Decision Precedents). Up until this time, the Commission itself decided the merits of every charge. Thus, the Commission continues to reserve to itself the responsibility to decide every case where there is no Commission precedent.
  • EEOC amends its sex discrimination guidelines to prohibit employers from imposing mandatory leaves of absence on pregnant women or terminating women because they become pregnant. EEOC also states it is sex discrimination for an employer to give women disabled by pregnancy less favorable health insurance or disability benefits than that provided to employees disabled by other temporary medical conditions.


Milestones: 1973

  • Congress passes the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 501 prohibits the Federal Government as an employer from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities. EEOC is now responsible for enforcement of Section 501. The Act proves to be the model for Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of disability by private employers.
  • In McDonnell Douglas Corp. v Green, the Supreme Court holds that a charging party can prove unlawful discrimination indirectly by showing, for example, in a hiring case that: (1) the charging party is a member of a Title VII protected group; (2) he or she applied and was qualified for the position sought; (3) the job was not offered to him or her; and (4) the employer continued to seek applicants with similar qualifications. If the plaintiff can prove these four elements, the employer must show a legitimate lawful reason why the individual was not hired. The employee still may prevail if he or she discredits the employer's asserted reason for not hiring him or her.
  • In Espinoza v. Farah Manufacturing Co., the Supreme Court holds that non-citizens are entitled to Title VII protection and states that a citizenship requirement may violate Title VII if it has the purpose or effect of discriminating on the basis of national origin.
  • EEOC, the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice and AT&T, the nation's largest private employer, sign a landmark consent decree to eliminate discriminatory recruiting, hiring and promotion practices against women and minorities. The action began in 1970 when EEOC petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to reject a substantial long distance telephone rate increase sought by AT&T. Under the decree filed in court, AT&T distributes $15 million to 13,000 women and 2,000 minority men. The company also provides approximately $30 million in immediate pay increases for 36,000 women and minorities whose advancement in the Bell system had been hampered by discrimination.
  • EEOC has a $43 million budget and 2,000 employees in 32 district offices, seven regional offices, and five litigation centers throughout the United States. Among the agency's top priorities is reducing a backlog of 80,000 charges awaiting investigation.
  • EEOC establishes the National Programs Division in Headquarters (D.C.) using a task force approach to investigate systemic patterns and practices of discrimination. National Programs begins investigating five Commissioner Charges lodged against four of the country's largest employers and an international labor union. This initiative later becomes the Office of Systemic Programs responsible for investigating broad allegations of discrimination against national employers.
  • EEOC requires EEO-4 reports of state and local governments with 100 or more employees, excluding school districts. The reports cover government function by race/ethnic category and gender for eight broad job categories.


Milestones: 1974

  • In Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., the Supreme Court rules that an employee who submits a discrimination claim to arbitration under a collective bargaining agreement is not precluded from suing his or her employer under Title VII. The court reasons that the right to be free of unlawful employment discrimination is a statutory right and cannot be bargained away by the union and employer.
  • In Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, the Supreme Court holds that under the Equal Pay Act the allocation of proof in a pay discrimination case requires the plaintiff to prove that an employer pays an employee of one sex more than an employee of the other sex for substantially equal work.
  • EEOC revises its Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. The agreement provides that the two agencies share information and that each agency act as the agent for the other to accept charges of discrimination. This provision results from a concern that many workers do not know where to go to file complaints with the government.
  • As a follow up to the 1973 consent decree with EEOC, AT&T agrees to a second settlement based on the agency's pleadings before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This second agreement provides for $30 million in back pay and wage increases for 25,000 female and minority management employees. AT&T also agrees to establish a new minimum entry salary level for all workers promoted or transferred to management to ensure that minorities and women moving into management positions receive fair compensation.
  • EEOC, the Department of Labor and the Department of Justice file suit against the nation's nine largest steel producers for discriminatory hiring, promotion, assignment and wage policies directed against women and minorities. These nine companies employ a total of 350,000 workers and produce 73 percent of the country's steel. The government's suit also names the major steelworkers' union, the United Steelworkers of America, as a defendant. After five and a half months of negotiations, the government and the defendants resolve the dispute through a consent decree providing for approximately $31 million in back pay to be distributed to about 40,000 minority and women employees. The companies and the union also agree to a set of goals which include hiring women and minority persons for half the openings in trade and craft jobs and for 25 percent of the vacancies in supervisory jobs. The decree also provides that seniority will now be determined on the basis of plant (rather than departmental) seniority permitting women and minority access to the better paying and more desirable jobs.

    EEOC Chair Powell, Attorney General Saxbe and Labor Secretary Brennan

    EEOC Chair Powell, Attorney General Saxbe and Labor Secretary Brennan discuss settlement with steel companies.

  • EEOC files a record 180 direct lawsuits and 12 interventions. EEOC convinces several courts of appeals that lower court decisions requiring EEOC to file its lawsuit within 180 days of the charge filing and that an earlier lawsuit by a private charging party bars EEOC from bringing suit were wrong. The effect of the lower court rulings had been to slow EEOC's litigation program.
  • President Richard M. Nixon nominates and the Senate confirms John Powell to be Chairman of EEOC.
    Photo of Chair John Powell

    Chairman John Powell


Milestones: 1975

  • In Albermarle Paper Co. v. Moody, the Supreme Court decides that after a court has found an employer guilty of discrimination, the "wronged" employee is presumed to be entitled to back pay.
  • President Gerald Ford appoints and the Senate confirms Lowell W. Perry to be the Chairman of EEOC.
    Photo of Chairman Perry

    Chairman Lowell W. Perry

  • Ethel Bent Walsh becomes the Acting Chair for a period of two months. Walsh is the first woman to serve in this capacity. She would later again be Acting Chair from May 1976 to May 1977.
  • For the first time in its history, EEOC has a backlog of more than 100,000 charges waiting to be investigated. In response, Congress approves President Gerald Ford's budget of $63 million for EEOC, marking the first year since EEOC opens its doors 10 years earlier that the Agency receives the full amount requested by the President.


Milestones: 1976

  • In General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, the Supreme Court rules that a health insurance plan for employees providing sickness and accident benefits for any disability but those arising as a result of pregnancy did not constitute sex discrimination under Title VII, although the court acknowledged that only women can become pregnant.
  • In Franks v. Bowman Transportation Co., the Supreme Court holds that Title VII requires an employer to hire a victim of unlawful discrimination with seniority starting from the date the individual was unlawfully denied the position.


Milestones: 1977

  • In McDonald v. Santa Fe Transportation Co., the Supreme Court holds that Title VII prohibits racial discrimination against whites as well as blacks.
  • In International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. United States, the Supreme Court rules that in a pattern or practice discrimination case, once the plaintiff proves that the defendant systematically discriminated, all the affected class members are presumed to be entitled to relief (such as back pay, jobs) unless the defendant proves that the individuals were not the victims of the defendant's pattern or practice of discrimination.
  • In Hazelwood School District v. U.S., the Supreme Court rules that a plaintiff can establish a prima facie case of class hiring discrimination through the presentation of statistical evidence by comparing the racial composition of an employer's workforce with the racial composition of the relevant labor market. The court explains that absent discrimination, an employer's workforce should reflect the composition of the employer's applicant pool.
  • The Supreme Court in Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison decides its first Title VII religious discrimination case. The Court states that under Title VII employers must reasonably accommodate an employee's religious needs unless to do so would create an undue hardship for the employer. The Court defines hardship as anything more than de minimis cost.
  • In Occidental Life Insurance Co. v. EEOC, the Supreme Court addresses many of the procedural arguments advanced by employers which have prevented EEOC's lawsuits from going forward. The Court holds that EEOC lawsuits do not have to be filed in court within 180 days after the filing of a charge and that EEOC lawsuits are not subject to state statutes of limitation.
  • President Jimmy Carter nominates and the Senate confirms Eleanor Holmes Norton to be the first African American woman to chair EEOC. Norton is later elected the delegate of the District of Columbia to the U.S. House of Representatives.
    Photo of Chairwoman Norton

    Chairwoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

  • Chair Norton introduces plans for the most extensive reorganization of EEOC's structure and programs since the agency opened its doors. Seven regional offices and five separate litigation centers are closed and their functions are moved to 22 district offices throughout the country. For the first time, administrative management, litigation and investigation are done from the same office. In September, model offices open in Dallas, Baltimore, and Chicago. The agency for the first time places its lawyers and investigators in the same offices. At the same time, the grade level of the newly appointed district directors rises from GS-15 to Senior Executive Service and the size of the district offices increases by about one third.


Milestones: 1978

  • Congress amends Title VII by passing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 to make clear that discrimination based on pregnancy is unlawful sex discrimination. This legislation reverses the Supreme Court's Gilbert decision.
  • The 1978 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 make the processes for federal employees' claims of discrimination on the basis of disability and the available remedies virtually identical to federal sector Title VII processes and remedies.
  • As a result of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, EEOC assumes responsibility for enforcing anti-discrimination laws applicable to the civilian federal workforce as well as coordinating all federal equal employment opportunity programs.
  • Seventeen federal agencies and departments are responsible for enforcing 40 different non-discrimination statutes and Executive orders. To eliminate duplication and conflict, President Jimmy Carter signs Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1978 making EEOC responsible for coordinating all federal equal employment opportunity programs. Only three federal agencies, EEOC, the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs are left with significant EEO responsibility. Responsibility for enforcing the Equal Pay Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act is transferred from the Department of Labor to EEOC.
  • President Jimmy Carter signs Executive Order 12067 abolishing the Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinating Council and transferring its responsibilities to EEOC. EEOC now has lead responsibility for giving direction to the government's equal employment opportunity efforts by developing uniform enforcement standards to apply throughout government, including standardized data collection and data sharing, joint training programs and investigations and consistent policies.
  • In Los Angeles Department of Water and Power v. Manhart, the Supreme Court rules that an employer may not use the fact that women as a group live longer than men to justify a policy of requiring women employees to make larger contributions than men to a pension plan to receive the same monthly pension benefits when they retire.
  • To implement the Civil Service Reform Act, EEOC establishes federal sector hearing units in district offices. These units are staffed by Complaints Examiners who conduct evidentiary hearings and rule on charges of discrimination filed by federal workers alleging violations of Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. The Complaints Examiners produce recommended final decisions, which the agencies can accept or reject. A complainant can appeal his or her final agency decision to the Commission.
  • EEOC creates a "Backlog Unit" in Philadelphia to resolve the thousands of federal equal employment complaints that EEOC inherited from the Civil Service Commission.
  • EEOC, the Departments of Labor and Justice, the Civil Service Commission and the Office of Revenue Sharing adopt Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP). These guidelines subject all private employers, government contractors, employment agencies, state and local governments to the same rules for hiring and promoting employees. The guidelines protect the rights of employees and job applicants to be selected on the basis of job-related standards. They require employers to justify the use of tests or other selection procedures which disproportionately exclude minorities and women. The guidelines state that any selection procedure which adversely affects protected class members must be shown to be job related or validated.
  • EEOC approves a nationwide conciliation agreement with General Electric Corporation resolving one of five National Programs Division charges. The company provides $29.4 million to female and minority workers. The agreement also provides for numerical hiring and promotion goals for women and minorities in most salaried jobs.
  • EEOC holds the first EEOC/Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs) Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to discuss establishing uniform contract eligibility criteria for FEPAs, focusing on charge resolution contracts with state and local representatives. The Commission approves a new contract program with "principles" for contracting with 68 state and local FEPAs for acceptable charge resolutions. Worksharing agreements also are instituted to avoid duplicate processing of charges that are filed with both EEOC and a state or local FEPA (dual filed charges).
  • EEOC and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopt a Memorandum of Understanding to coordinate action on charges of discrimination filed against radio and television broadcasters or cable system operators licensed by FCC. FCC states it will consider information obtained from EEOC when determining whether to grant and or renew licenses.


Milestones: 1979

  • In United Steel Workers of America v. Weber, the Supreme Court holds that private sector employers and unions may lawfully implement voluntary affirmative action plans to remedy past discrimination. The Court holds that an employer and union do not violate a collectively bargained plan by reserving 50 percent of the slots in a training program in a traditionally segregated industry for black employees. The program is lawful because it does not "unnecessarily trammel the interests of white employees," does not "create an absolute bar to the advancement of white employees," and is "a temporary measure . . . not intended to maintain racial balance, but simply to eliminate a manifest racial imbalance."
  • EEOC issues Affirmative Action Guidelines providing employers information on how to undertake voluntary affirmative action.
  • EEOC implements a new method for processing discrimination charges filed by members of the public -- Rapid Charge Processing. Under this new method, the agency encourages the charging party and the respondent to negotiate quick "no fault" settlement agreements. Where parties fail to reach such agreements, the agency fully investigates the charges. Rapid Charge Processing results in large numbers of settlements and EEOC begins to sharply reduce the number of charges (approximately 100,000) awaiting investigation.