Dr. Gwendolyn W. Stephenson District Administration Center

Summary of Equity Laws

Congress has enacted legislation prohibiting discrimination in many forms, including on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, veteran status, pregnancy and alienage. These laws are made applicable to higher education through many different federal programs and regulations. The United States Constitution provides the founda­tion for equal opportunity. Passed in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment expressly provides that state governments cannot deny any person equal protection of the law. (The concept of equal protection, as applied to the federal government, arises by implication of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.) 

Although the Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibited discrimination based on race in the enforcement of contracts, including contracts of employment, the modern era of equal opportunity in employment began with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI of that Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin under any program or activity (such as a university) receiving federal financial assistance. Title VII prohibits such discrimina­tion in employment and adds gender and religion as protected categories. 

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 expanded protection against employment discrimination based on gender.  Other federal laws protect all CUA employees regarding age discrimination (1967); pregnancy, childbirth and related illness (1978); alienage and immigration reviews (1986); employee benefit plans (1990); disabilities (1973 and 1990); family and medical leave (1993); and veterans (1974 and 1996). 

On April 4, 2011, the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), issued a 19-page "Dear Colleague" Letter (2011 DCL) that established many new requirements for education institutions, particularly college campuses, to prevent and address sexual violence under Title IX.  Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq., and its implementing regulations, 34 C.F.R. Part 10620 U.S.C, states that no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.  In April 2013, the OCR issued another DCL (2013 DCL) reminding schools that retaliating against complainants or witnesses for filing a complaint, or participating in an investigation or proceeding in any  manner, is prohibited under retaliation provisions.  

Under Federal equal employment opportunity laws, only job-related factors may be used to determine if an individual is qualified for a particular job. Job related is defined as that which is essential to job per­for­mance. The knowledge, skills and experience necessary to perform a particular job. Tests are job related if they test whether an applicant or an employee can perform the job in question. A rule or practice is job related if it is necessary for the safe and efficient performance of a particular job. For example, the requirement that persons working as laboratory technicians must wear safety glasses when performing certain tasks is a job-related rule.  

A consideration of equal employment opportunity law must also include state equal opportunity law, which is often more stringent, and offers the employee more protection than federal law. As noted above, the categories protected under federal statutes include race, color, religion, gender, age, national origin, disability and veteran status. As an example of a local law, the D.C. Human Rights Law, in addition to covering the just listed federal categories,  prohibits employers from dis­charg­ing, failing or refusing to hire, or otherwise discriminating against any individual with respect to employment because of the person’s marital status, personal appear­ance, sexual orientation, family responsibilities, matriculation or political affiliation. (D.C. Code Ann. §2-1402.11) 

Links are provided below for some of the major federal non-discrimination laws: