Legal Foundation for Diversity
Often, organizations want to think diversity is divorced from the law—that it is only about sensitivity and awareness and the benefits of differences in the workplace. The repercussions from these misconceptions often result in lawsuits that cost time and money. We talk about diversity as if it just arrived one day. In reality, the legal foundation for diversity has been growing for decades:
- Employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin was made unlawful in the United States with the enactment of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- In 1967, discrimination based on age was forbidden by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
- 1973, handicapped status was added to the list of prohibited considerations, and in 1974, an employment protection was established for disabled veterans and veterans of the Vietnam Era.
- In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, further protecting individuals with disabilities from employment discrimination.
Diversity initiatives build on laws that protect diverse groups. To be effective, diversity initiatives should recognize that everyone is diverse, and be inclusive of all groups. Integrating the legal foundation for diversity into our initiatives will strengthen our efforts.