Magazine article The CPA Journal

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 Provides Stricter Guidelines and Increased Liability

Magazine article The CPA Journal

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 Provides Stricter Guidelines and Increased Liability

Article excerpt

Last month in The CPA Journal, Jeffrey Englander, Esq., Morrison Cohen Singer & Weinstein, gave advice to employers on "Handling Sexual Harassment in the Workplace." Since the article was initially written, Englander has also reported the following developments in the area:

On November 21, 1991, President Bush signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (the "Act") which is designed to clarify and, to a certain extent, put the "teeth" back into the body of federal legislation enacted during the past quarter century to prevent discrimination in employment (including harassment) in the workplace. The Act's provisions specifically stem the erosive tide of recent Supreme Court decisions in the employment discrimination area by, among other things, 1) establishing burdens of proof in certain types of employment discrimination cases, i.e., the so-called disparate impact and mixed motive disparate treatment cases, which make plaintiffs' burdens easier and those of employers more difficult, 2) enlarging the bases for challenging discriminatory seniority systems, and 3) clarifying the statutory prohibition against discriminatory use of test scores which affect employment decisions. In addition, the Act specifically enables successful plaintiffs to recover compensatory and punitive damages in cases where employers have been shown to have engaged in intentional job bias.

Although critics of the Act have attacked its lack of clarity, claiming, perhaps correctly, that the legislation creates as many questions as it answers, thus requiring a new period of judicial examination and interpretation, it is at least clear at this juncture that Title VII plaintiffs who previously had no right to relief other than equitable relief--i. …

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