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A Message from EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows on the 60th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This landmark bill – among its other significant accomplishments – established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to help advance a more just, equal, and prosperous future for our nation. The Act was adopted with strong bipartisan approval from the House, the Senate, and the President, reflecting a broad national consensus that all workers have the right to dignity, respect, and equal opportunity. 

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not, of course, immediately end discrimination in the United States. In the same summer the Act was passed, three young activists seeking to register Black citizens to vote were abducted and brutally murdered; Black workers were largely excluded from a wide class of occupations and subjected to race-based limiting classifications within the jobs they were allowed to hold; many immigrants of all nationalities faced hostility in finding work and housing; discrimination against religious minorities was commonplace; and the idea of placing women on equal footing to men in the workplace – ultimately supported by a majority of Congress due to the advocacy of Pauli Murray and Lady Bird Johnson –  was initially considered so absurd that some predicted that its inclusion in the Act would threaten its passage. 

As such, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is best understood as a critical step in the right direction rather than the end of the journey. The Supreme Court made this clear repeatedly by recognizing that the law provides robust protections – including protection against sexual harassment in Meritor v. Vinson; protections against sex stereotyping in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins; protections for LGBTQI+ workers in Bostock v. Clayton County; and more recently, in Muldrow v. City of St. Louis, protections against discriminatory transfers. As Justice Scalia wrote in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, the Civil Rights Act guards against both the “principal evils Congress was concerned with when it enacted Title VII …” and “reasonably comparable evils.” 

This critical law, strengthened over time by amendments, also paved the way and provided a model for other critical laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, and the recent Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and these later laws have helped make the United States a stronger, fairer, and better nation. 

Today, the Civil Rights Act continues to bring us closer to a society that grants full opportunity to all people and welcomes persons of all backgrounds in our 21st century workplaces. All workers deserve dignity, respect, and equal opportunity in the workplace, but sadly, they do not always find them. 

Together, we can create an America where everyone can thrive at work without fear of discrimination based on who they are, what they believe, or who they love. On this 60th anniversary of the Civil Right Act of 1964 and every day, I am honored to lead an agency that seeks equality and justice for all. 


Charlotte A. Burrows (she/her/hers)


Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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