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EEOC History: 1964 - 1969

Signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • At 7:40 on the evening of June 19, after the longest debate in its nearly 180-year history, the U.S. Senate passes the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The vote in favor of the bill is 73 to 27. Thirteen days later, on July 2, the U.S. House of Representatives passes the bill and President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the bill into law that same evening. Five hundred amendments were made to the bill and Congress has debated the bill for 534 hours.
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in a broad array of private conduct including public accommodations, governmental services and education. One section of the Act, referred to as Title VII, prohibits employment discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion and national origin. Title VII applies to private employers, labor unions and employment agencies. The Act prohibits discrimination in recruitment, hiring, wages, assignment, promotions, benefits, discipline, discharge, layoffs and almost every aspect of employment.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also creates the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a five-member, bipartisan commission whose mission is to eliminate unlawful employment discrimination. The law provides that the Commissioners, no more than three of whom may be from the same political party, are appointed to five-year terms by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Chairman of the agency appoints the General Counsel. EEOC is to open its doors for business on July 2, 1965 -- one year after Title VII's enactment into law.


Milestones: 1965


The First Commission
The First Commission: Commissioner Richard Graham, Chairman Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., Commissioners Aileen Hernandez, Samuel C. Jackson, and Luther Holcomb.

  • In May, just two months before EEOC is to open for business, President Lyndon B. Johnson appoints Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. as EEOC's first Chairman. President Johnson also appoints Richard Graham, Aileen Hernandez, Luther Holcomb, and Samuel C. Jackson as EEOC's first Commissioners. Hernandez is the only woman to serve on the Commission. The Senate confirms the nominees in June. A year later, Graham assists in creating the National Organization for Women (NOW). He is a founding Vice President. Hernandez becomes President of NOW in 1970, succeeding Betty Friedan.
  • On July 2, Title VII becomes "the law of the land" and EEOC opens for business with a budget of $2.25 million and approximately 100 employees, many of them detailed from other federal agencies. EEOC's primary responsibility is to receive and investigate charges of unlawful employment practices, determine if reasonable cause exists to believe the charge is true, and if the agency determines there has been a violation of law, to attempt to reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation.
  • In its first year, Title VII applies to employers with 100 or more employees, with coverage phased in over the next three years to reach employers with as few as 25 or more employees. Title VII also applies to labor unions and employment agencies but does not apply to federal, state, or local government employers; nor does it apply to educational institutions. It was projected in its first year that EEOC would receive approximately 2,000 charges. Instead, EEOC receives 8,852 charges. A backlog of charges to be investigated is created after only one year of agency operations.
  • Under the original Title VII, EEOC has no authority to bring lawsuits of its own. However, private individuals may file actions in court and EEOC can recommend to the Department of Justice that it bring pattern and practice lawsuits.
  • EEOC Chairman Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. appoints Charles T. Duncan, an African American Howard University law professor, as EEOC's first General Counsel.
  • EEOC begins to formulate guidance to give meaning to Title VII's broad prohibitions against discrimination. EEOC officials initially note that there is virtually no legislative history explaining Congress's intent in outlawing sex discrimination.
  • The lack of Congressional guidance and lack of public consensus result in the Commission initially struggling with the issue of whether sex segregated classified advertising -- separate "help wanted" advertisements for men and women -- are unlawful under Title VII given that it is unlawful for newspapers to have separate classified job advertising sections for white and blacks. The Commission eventually rules that it is unlawful under Title VII to have separate "help wanted" sections for men and women, despite the strong protest of newspaper publishers.
  • The Commission's first determination on a charge holds that any corporate policy requiring firing of female employees when they marry violates Title VII.
  • More than half the states already have some form of fair employment practices laws outlawing discrimination based on race, sex or national origin. Title VII requires EEOC to defer charges it receives to state or local Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs) so that attempts to resolve disputes are first undertaken under local laws. Charges which are filed with EEOC and then deferred to state FEPAs are called dual filed charges. EEOC determines that 32 agencies should be designated as "deferral agencies" for dual filed charges. One of the first EEOC cooperative activities is a research project to study the operations of 11 state FEPAs.


Milestones: 1966

  • In January 1966, EEOC opens its first field office in Dallas, Texas. By year's end, the office is relocated to Austin, Texas. Three other field offices open this year -- Atlanta, Chicago and Cleveland.
  • In its first full year of operations, EEOC obtains conciliation agreements with 111 employers, most of them located in the deep south. Many of these conciliation agreements focus on desegregating employer facilities, most notably restrooms, washrooms, shower and locker rooms and cafeterias. The agency holds that the removal of "white" and "colored" signs may not always be sufficient to eliminate the vestiges of segregation. To achieve desegregation, employers also may have to eliminate separate toilet facilities for whites and blacks, remove unnecessary walls and generally remodel facilities.
  • The most far reaching of the conciliation agreements involves Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company. The Newport News agreement provides class relief for approximately 5,000 black workers. The agreement provides that black workers performing the same jobs as white workers are to be given equal pay for their labor. The agreement also provides that 3,200 black workers be promoted and that all blacks be given an equal opportunity to participate in apprenticeship programs, compete for supervisory and craft jobs and that the company desegregate its facilities.

    "We are proud of our part in working out this agreement. It represents, in our view, an effective and responsible effort by the company and the Commission to further achieve genuine equality of opportunity for Negroes in our yard."

    Donald A. Holden, President
    Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company

  • More individuals in North Carolina file charges with EEOC than in any other state requiring the agency to assign 17 investigators to that state alone. In North Carolina and nationally, the most frequently alleged charge involves allegation of race (Black) discrimination in hiring.
  • EEOC requires employers with at least 100 employees or government contractors with 50 employees to fill out the EEO-1 Private Sector Report annually. This report is a snapshot of how many racial and ethnic minorities and women are working in a company. The report profiles 25 million employees as well as 45,000 employers or approximately 50 percent of the country's private payroll workers.
  • An EEOC study shows that some employers' ability and aptitude tests and other selection devices for hiring and promotion are being used to maintain pre-Act patterns of racial exclusion and discrimination. To encourage employers to establish objective standards, EEOC issues its first Guidelines on Employment Testing Procedures. EEOC takes the position that Title VII prohibits not only intentional discrimination, but also neutral employment practices if they exclude a disproportionate number of minorities and employers cannot justify the neutral policy as job related and consistent with business necessity. The Supreme Court later accepts this position in the 1971 case Griggs v. Duke Power Co.
  • In June, EEOC issues its first Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Religion.
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson appoints Luther Holcomb as the first Acting Chairman of the Commission. He would serve as Acting Chairman on three occasions during his tenure (1966-1973) as an EEOC Commissioner.
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson nominates Stephen N. Shulman to be Chairman of EEOC. The Senate confirms Shulman within two weeks. When nominated, Shulman is the General Counsel of the U.S. Air Force.
    Chairman Shulman
    Chairman Stephen N. Shulman


Milestones: 1967

  • Congress passes the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protecting individuals who are between 40 and 65 years of age from discrimination in employment. The Department of Labor has enforcement responsibility. Three years earlier, Congress had voted down an amendment to Title VII to include age discrimination as an unlawful employment practice.
  • EEOC institutes EEO-3 reports, requiring local referral unions with 100 or more members to report every two years on membership/referral and applicants by race/ethnic group, gender and trade. These reports cover 1.2 million union members and applicants for union membership.
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson appoints and the Senate confirms Vincente T. Ximenes as a Commissioner. He is the first Hispanic American to serve on the Commission. President Johnson also appoints Ximenes to be Chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on Mexican American Affairs, a federal task force established to ensure that Mexican Americans receive a fair share of Federal Government services and programs.
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson appoints and the Senate confirms Clifford L. Alexander, Jr. as the first African American Chairman of EEOC. President Jimmy Carter later appoints Alexander to be the first African American Secretary of the U.S. Army.
    Chairman Alexander
    Chairman Clifford L. Alexander, Jr.
  • EEOC shifts the focus of its relationship with state and local Fair Employment Practice Agencies (FEPAs) from research to action oriented programs which are designed to strengthen FEPA compliance and enforcement efforts.
  • The Commission addresses the issue of whether employers can rely on state protective laws as a defense to claims of sex discrimination. State protective laws in 43 states restrict women from holding certain jobs, often prohibit women from working at night and in general restrict employment opportunities for women. The Commission declines to address the issue directly and directs charging parties to the courts for a determination. The Commission eventually determines "state protective laws by their very nature conflict with Title VII" and will not be considered a defense to a claim of sex discrimination.
  • EEOC begins conducting public hearings in selected cities throughout the country to publicize the existence of Title VII, make members of the public aware that they can complain to EEOC about employment discrimination and to focus attention on particularly acute discriminatory employment practices. Using EEO-1 data, EEOC documents the scope and intensity of discrimination and urges employers to take stronger action to overcome the historical exclusion of minorities and women in particular industries and jobs. Technical assistance is provided to employers.
  • EEOC's first public hearing is held in Charlotte, North Carolina and focuses on the textile industry, which has been one of the largest sources of individual charges to date. EEO-1 reports show that only 8.4 percent of all textile employees are African American, although nonwhites constitute 22 percent of the population in North Carolina and 30.5 percent in South Carolina. The EEO-1 Reports also show that 99 percent of the African American employees in the textile industry are blue collar and service workers and that African Americans are only 2.3 percent of craftsmen, foremen and similar positions.


Milestones: 1968

  • EEOC has 380 employees, 13 offices, and a budget of approximately $6.5 million. The agency receives a record 15,058 charges. The Commission, through settlements and conciliation agreements, secures relief for 28,600 individuals, an increase of 238 percent more than 1967. However, after three years of operations the average time it takes to complete the processing of a charge is 16 months.
  • The National Advisory Committee on Civil Disorders (known as the Kerner Commission) issues its report on race relations in the country. The report describes two separate Americas caused by racism. One America is white and affluent and the other is black and poor. The report recommends sweeping reforms in federal and local welfare, housing, education, and employment policies.
  • EEOC holds a four-day public hearing on discrimination against minorities in white collar employment in New York City. Commissioners listen to testimony describing job bias in the finance, insurance, communications, advertising, printing, and publishing industries as well as in 100 major national corporations with New York headquarters. One account of the hearings stated:

    EEOC data revealed that in absolute terms a major problem of minority underutilization clearly existed. For example, of the 4,249 reporting establishments in New York City, 1,827 employed not a single Negro in white collar positions and 1,936 not a single Puerto Rican or other Spanish Surnamed American. It should be added that New York City was selected as the site not because the area was judged to be worse than others . . . . On the contrary, according to Commission findings, the New York SMSA ranked relatively high among major metropolitan areas in this regard.

  • EEOC issues revised guidelines on sex discrimination, making it clear that the widespread practice of publishing "help wanted" advertisements that use "male" and "female" column headings violates Title VII.
  • Although EEOC cannot file lawsuits directly against employers, the agency begins to submit amicus or "friend of the court" briefs in cases brought by private individuals. EEOC seeks to develop favorable legal precedents on key substantive and procedural issues. By now, the Commission has taken the position that employers cannot rely on state protective laws as a defense to sex discrimination claims. In Rosenfeld v. Southern Pacific and Weeks v. Southern Bell Telephone Co., two Federal Courts of Appeal adopt EEOC's amicus position striking down state laws limiting the jobs women can hold and specifically ruling that employers cannot rely on the stereotype that women are unable to lift weights of more than 30 pounds.


Milestones: 1969

  • EEOC conducts hearings in Los Angeles on employment of minorities and women working in the aerospace, motion picture, radio, television, and financial services industries. Based on the information obtained, EEOC initiates investigations but, lacking authority to sue, EEOC recommends that the Attorney General file lawsuits against the television and motion picture industries and related craft unions. Negotiations by the Department of Justice lead to the termination of a discriminatory job referral system, and more minorities begin appearing in television series, commercials and motion pictures in other than stereotypical roles.
  • President Richard M. Nixon appoints and the Senate confirms William H. Brown III as EEOC Chairman on May 5.
    Chairman Brown
    Chairman William H. Brown III