Summary of Federal Laws
|AVP for Human Resources|
Equal Employment Opportunity
Civil Rights Act of 1991 (amends Title VII)
Allows for compensatory and punitive damages and jury trials when intentional employment discrimination can be shown with respect to one of the Title VII protected classes or with respect to protection offered by the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Rehabilitation Act. Places caps on the amounts that can be awarded. Prohibits use of different cut-off scores based on race in employment tests. However, the EEOC has not offered any policy guidance on this part of the law and how it meshes with affirmative action requirements. Codified the statistically defined adverse impact definition of discrimination (see guidelines on employee selection procedures at 29 C.F.R. § 1607) and states that employer must prove a close connection between disparate impact and the ability to actually perform the job in question. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(k). This law also clarifies that discrimination is established when race, color, religion, sex or national origin is a motivating factor for any employment practice, even though other factors also motivated the practice.
"[t]he plaintiff has the burden of proving … by a preponderance of the evidence that she 'suffered adverse work conditions' and that her sex 'was a motivating factor in any such work conditions imposed upon her.' "<<<<
"You have heard evidence that the defendant's treatment of the plaintiff was motivated by the plaintiff's sex and also by other lawful reasons. If you find that the plaintiff's sex was a motivating factor in the defendant's treatment of the plaintiff, the plaintiff is entitled to your verdict, even if you find that the defendant's conduct was also motivated by a lawful reason. However, if you find that the defendant's treatment of the plaintiff was motivated by both gender and lawful reasons, you must decide whether the plaintiff is entitled to damages. The plaintiff is entitled to damages unless the defendant proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant would have treated plaintiff similarly even if the plaintiff's gender had played no role in the employment decision. "
Based on these instructions, the jury issued a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff (here Respondent) Costa.
The Supreme Court upheld the ruling that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in giving the mixed motive instruction to the jury. The holding was written by Justice Thomas for a unanimous court. The decision was based on the plain language of the 1991 amendment to the Civil Rights Act, which the Court found wholly abrogated any requirement of direct (as opposed to circumstantial) evidence as to discrimination before the jury could find for the plaintiff in a mixed motive case. The end result is that it will be easier for employees to win discrimination cases when an illegal motive (a decision based on race, sex, national origin, etc.) is one of several factors (including a permissible factor) in an adverse employment action.
For more see the Jackson Lewis commentary on the case.
Statement on the Signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1991
Updated 6/11/03 to add Costa case
updated 11/16/07 AAA
links updated 6/13/08 rab
updated to add CBOC West case
CFR updated 10/22/08 RAB
links checked and compliance partner added by mlo 3/1/09
compliance box links updated 6/2/09 rab
Links checked July 1st, 2010, FJL.
links checked and updated 07/08/10 TOL