The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held a series of panel workshops and other celebrations in honor of its 40th anniversary.
More than 40 years ago, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
In 2004, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gathered together judges, former EEOC officials, attorneys and other participants in landmark cases to celebrate and discuss the 40th anniversary of the act that changed the face of the American workforce.
"When Title VII was passed, many of us had extremely high hopes. We expected that this statute was literally going to transform America, and usher in a complete world of equal employment opportunity," said William Robinson, fourth chairman of the EEOC, from 1969 to 1973, and, currently, professor of law at David Clarke Law School at the University of the District of Columbia. "And as we look at the achievements that have occurred under this title, there is a lot of reason to be awfully proud."
Held at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, the celebration took place over three days, and included panels that discussed and examined the Act's origins and history. Co-sponsored by the American Bar Association's Equal Employment Opportunity Committee, the District of Columbia Bar's Labor and Employment Law Section and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the event focused on first-hand accounts of the development of workplace protections in Congress and the courts.
Other prestigious panelists included Elizabeth Holtzman, congresswoman from 1973 to 1981 and co-sponsor of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act; Julius L. Chambers, lead counsel in Griggs vs. Duke Power Co. and Albemarle Paper Co. vs. Moody; and Donald P. Lay, senior judge of the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and author of some notable Title VII decisions.
"It is easy to take for granted the fact that many, many thousands of individuals feel perfectly free to put their complaint in writing and submit it to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission with an expectation that they are going to get some measure of justice," Robinson said.