From the outset, Congress's crafting of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964-the main federal law prohibiting employment discrimination-was marked by compromise. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was initially conceived as a strong federal enforcement agency that could issue binding orders and oversee adversarial hearings. But the EEOC that ultimately emerged from legislative bargaining in the year the Act was passed was limited to a mostly investigatory and gatekeeping role. The final enforcement scheme of Title VII relied heavily on an individual private right of action, through which employees could file private lawsuits alleging discrimination against their employers in federal court. Fifty years and numerous amendments later, Title VII's enforcement mechanism remains largely unchanged: the EEOC provides a crucial, but circumscribed administrative and enforcement function, while the bulk of federal antidiscrimination enforcement responsibility falls to private civil lawsuits.

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