The Legal Attack on Sex Discrimination
In rapid succession a number of laws and executive orders have outlawed virtually all forms of formal sex discrimination. The Equal Par Act of 1963 requires equal pay for equal work. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws discrimination' on the basis of sex as well as race, color, and religion. Executive Orders and 11375 bar discrimination by federal suppliers and contractors, and add machinery for enforcement. The Education Amendments of 1972 forbid schools and colleges receiving federal funds to practice sex discrimination in admissions, curriculum, or staff. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 bars discrimination on the basis of sex or marital status in credit transactions. These and other laws, toðer with a number of landmark curl decisions, have clearly established the illegality of sex discrimination in recruiting, training, hiring, promotion, and rates of pay. A number of employers have been ordered by courts to pay millions of dollars to women as compensation for past discrimination. While' :sex discrimination certainly is not ended, the easily demonstrable forms of sex discriminant lion (in hiring and in equal pay for equal
work) have become so troublesome and costly that most large employers have discontinued them.
After a half cert of refusal Congress finally passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1972. This states that "equality under' the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." Although thirty states quickly ratified it, enthusiasm cooled and it died for lack of ratification in 1982. Why did the ERA fail to gain ratification? Public opinion polls consistently showed the ERA with solid majority support (two to one in 1981). It was endorsed by the prosecution candidates and party platforms of both parties in 1972 and 76. But MI'. Reagan , the Republican platform failed to endorse the ERA in 1980, a sign that support was weakening. Social movements typically have an active life of only a decade or two. They arouse interest, generate momentum, reach a peak of influence, and then wane (see Chapter 19), After a while people seem to tire of a movement, and public interest turns to other topics. But the effort to pass the ERA is 110t dead. Feminist leaders announced in 82 that they were digging in for the long haul to elect sympathetic legislators [MS, Aug. 1982, p. 111, a standard technique of political action groups.
Affirmative Actioll Programs Affirmative action programs are now required of all ballplayers covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and all recipients of federal funds (which includes virtually all 'schools, colleges, and universities). It is not enough for these employers, contractors, or school systems to show that they are not discriminating against women or minorities. They- must show a positive, actively implemented 'program to locate, "recruit, train, hire, and promote (or minority members) and must set hiring "goals." These goals which some call "quotas"- left to charges of "reverse discrimination. In the early 1970t>, for example, many advertisements for college faculty positions specified "women only." Such advertisements soon ended, but rumors of favoritism persisted.
The present picture is mixed: discrimination in favor of women in some places and discrimination against women in some others. Federal government pressure for affirmative action has declined markedly during the Reagan administration [Lubin, 1982b}. A Wall Street [ourna! news story 111 June 1982 told how corporation executives were staging seminars for middle managers and personnel officers to remind them that, despite Reagan administration disinterest in enforcement, the anti discrimination laws were stile in effect and that failure to follow them could bring multimillionaire dollar lawsuits against their corporations [Greenberger, 1982]. As this is written, it is unclear whether affirmative action is dead or just resting.