While many people have heard of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, fewer might know about the Civil Rights Act of 1991. This law was enacted because of several unpopular U.S. Supreme Court decisions and overturned them. It also amended several portions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The amendments also expanded the protected classes and provided protection against discrimination in employment. Here is some information from the attorneys at Swartz Swidler about the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
What the Civil Rights Act of 1991 Did
The Civil Rights Act of 1991 amended but did not replace the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It made the 1964 law stronger in the areas of employer liability and the burden of proof. The 1991 law also did the following things:
- Made changes to some substantive and procedural rights in employment discrimination matters
- Allowed employees to choose jury trials in discrimination cases
- Provided the ability for employees to recover damages for emotional distress
- Capped how much juries could award
Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1991 primarily in response to a Supreme Court decision in a 1989 case that reduced the ability of employees to sue employers for discrimination. The 1991 Civil Rights Act restored this ability to employees and added new ways for employees to sue their employers for employment discrimination.
Why Congress Passed the Civil Rights Act of 1991
Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1991 to strengthen the federal civil rights laws against employment discrimination. It also provided safeguards to protected minorities and ways to resolve subtle forms of employment discrimination. The 1991 law was meant to fill in gaps in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In Ward’s Cove Packing Co. v. Antonio, 490 U.S. 642 (1989), the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision substantially weakened the effectiveness and scope of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which caused Congress to react and pass the 1991 Civil Rights Act.
Changes Made to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by the 1991 Civil Rights Act
The 1991 Civil Rights Act made multiple changes to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. These changes are described below.
The 1991 Civil Rights Act allowed employees to recover both compensatory and punitive damages in their employment discrimination claims. Plaintiffs can also recover damages for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses as well as future pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses caused by their employers’ discrimination.
Protection for U.S. Workers Working Abroad
The Civil Rights Act of 1991 includes an extraterritoriality clause. This clause allows U.S. citizens who work abroad to file employment discrimination complaints against their employers.
Right to a Jury Trial
Under the Civil Rights Act of 1991, plaintiffs can now ask for jury trials. However, most cases must go through the EEOC’s administrative process before they can be filed in court.
Creation of the Technical Assistance Training Institute
The Civil Rights Act of 1991 also amended the 1964 law to create the Technical Assistance Training Institute. The institute offers technical assistance and training to employers about the regulations and laws that the EEOC enforces.
Outreach and Education
The 1991 Civil Rights Act also mandates the EEOC to engage in outreach and education for people who have historically been the victims of employment discrimination and who have not been properly served by the EEOC. The EEOC must also provide education and outreach to people for whom the EEOC is authorized to enforce other laws.
Ability to Challenge Seniority Systems
Under the 1991 Civil Rights Act, employees have the right to challenge seniority systems established within their workplaces when those systems have been adopted by the employers for discriminatory purposes.
Recovery of Expert Witness and Attorney’s Fees
The prevailing party in an employment discrimination lawsuit can recover attorney’s fees and expert witness fees under the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
Changes to the Statutes of Limitation
Under the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the statute of limitations to file a discrimination lawsuit in court after receiving the final notice from the EEOC was extended to 90 days from 30 days. It also removed the statute of limitations for claims filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and instead made the statute of limitations the same as the limitation period for Title VII claims.
Expanded Coverage to Congressional Employees
The Civil Rights Act of 1991 also expanded the coverage of the 1964 law to include congressional employees and other instrumentalities of Congress.
The following characteristics are protected against employment discrimination under federal law:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Genetic information
- Gender identity
- Age (over 40)
The Civil Rights Act of 1991 helped by amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, despite both of these laws, discrimination still occurs.
Get Help from Swartz Swidler
If you believe that your employer has engaged in illegal discriminatory practices based on your protected characteristics, you should speak to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler. Call us today for a free consultation at (856) 685-7420.