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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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asasssdsssWhile EEO laws aim to ensure equal treatment at work, affirmative action requires the employer to make an extra effort to hire and promote people who belong to a protected group. Affirmative action includes taking specific actions designed to eliminate the present effects of past discriminations.

Employees are also protected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which was established through the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title VII. The scope of authority of the EEOC has been expanded so that today it carries the major enforcement authority for the following laws:

* Civil Rights Act of 1964. Prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.

* Civil Rights Act of 1991. Reaffirms and tightens prohibition of discrimination. Permits individuals to sue for punitive damages in cases of intentional discrimination and shifts the burden of proof to the employer.

* Equal Pay Act of 1963. Prohibits pay differences based on sex for equal work.

* Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. Prohibits discrimination or dismissal of women because of pregnancy alone, and protects job security during maternity leaves.

* American with Disabilities Act. Prohibits discrimination against individuals with physical or mental disabilities or the chronically ill, and requires that "reasonable accommodations" be provided for the disabled.

* Vocational Rehabilitation Act. Prohibits discrimination on the basis of physical or mental disabilities and requires that employees be informed about affirmative action plans.

Most employers in the United States must comply with the provisions of Title VII. Compliance is required from all private employers of 15 or more persons, all educational institutions, state and local governments, public and private employment agencies, labour unions with 15 or more members, and joint (labor-management) committees for apprenticeship and training.

From management's standpoint, sexual harassment is a growing concern because it intimidates employees, interferes with job performance, and exposes the organization to liability. Organizations must respond to sexual harassment complaints very quickly because employers are held responsible for sexual harassment if appropriate action is not taken. The cost of inaction can be high. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 permits victims of sexual harassment to have jury trials and to collect compensatory damages in cases where the employer acted with "malice or reckless indifference" to the individual's rights.

Employers can take the following steps to help minimize liability for sexual harassment suits:

1. Offer a sexual harassment policy statement. This statement should address where employees can report complaints, assure confidentiality, and promise that disciplinary



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