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Sexual Harassment

History Of Legislation

Cases dealing with issues of sexual harassment are a twentieth century phenomena. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, no legislation protected individuals on the basis of sex. Ironically, the clause making discrimination illegal on the basis of sex was added to the bill by Southern conservatives in the legislature in an attempt to defeat it. The idea was to add a clause protecting individuals from discrimination on the basis of their gender, which they believed so outrageous that the entire bill would fail. In its original form, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of "race, color, religion, or national origin" only. To their chagrin, the bill passed the legislature. President Lyndon Johnson so fervently wanted the legislation enacted into law that he signed it without raising any issue with the amendment prohibiting against discrimination based on sex.

Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made discrimination on the basis of sex illegal, initially the act did little to stem abuses. The EEOC was established as a result of its passage, but the first head of the agency who was entrusted with enforcing the act regarded the provisions prohibiting sexual discrimination as something of a joke. Finally in 1980, after considerable pressure from women's groups, the EEOC, under the direction of Eleanor Holmes Norton, released regulations outlining what constituted sexual harassment. At that time, the EEOC declared that sexual harassment was indeed a form of sexual discrimination, and consequently, individuals were protected against such conduct under the Civil Rights Act.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationGreat American Court CasesSexual Harassment - History Of Legislation, Judicial Precedent Set By U.s. Supreme Court, Bill Passed Allowing Damages For Victims Of Sexual Harassment