Civil Rights Reform Act 1978

In an attempt to consolidate the numerous EEO enforcement programmes established through various legislative Acts, the Civil Rights Reform Act of 1978 established the EEOC as the primary agency to enforce Title VII, the Equal Pay Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, along with providing for equal employment opportunities for federal employees (Aiken et al., 2013; Hanges et al., 2013).

Wards Cove Packing Company v. Antonio (1989)

Wards Cove Packing Company operated salmon canneries in remote areas of Alaska. Owing to the nature of the work, Wards Cove would hire seasonal employees for the canneries. Seasonal jobs were generally classified into two broad groups: those involving unskilled work on the cannery lines and those considered skilled positions. The majority of the unskilled positions were filled by non-White employees, specifically Alaskan natives and Filipinos, whereas the skilled positions were mostly filled by Whites (Bryan, 1990; Gutman et al., 2011). The plaintiffs in this case argued that the employer’s use of hiring and promotion practices, including subjective hiring criteria and nepotism, led to both systematic and individualized discrimination against non-White applicants to the skilled jobs (Bryan, 1990). At the district court level, many of the plaintiffs’ allegations were found to be unsupported. Eventually, the case was heard by the Supreme Court, whose opinion stated that it was the plaintiffs’ responsibility to demonstrate that selection discrimination was due to a particular employment practice. This decision signified a major shift in the type of evidence plaintiffs were required to provide. Furthermore, the Supreme Court determined that the defendant’s burden of proof was to show the employment practice in question met the employer’s employment goals, and the defendant did not have to demonstrate the more stringent requirement of the practice’s job-relatedness (Hanges et al., 2013).

The Supreme Court then returned the case to the appeals court, where it was determined that the plaintiffs did not provide sufficient evidence of discrimination and ruled in favour of the defendants. This ruling dramatically changed the procedure and standards of evidence applied to discrimination cases by increasing the plaintiff’s relative burden of proof (Hanges et al., 2013). As a result, it became the plaintiff’s responsibility to demonstrate evidence of illegal discrimination, which might be accomplished through hiring experts in selection to review (Bellenger & Yusko, 2015).

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