The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972

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America’s turbulent struggle for equal rights in the 1950s and 1960s propelled an unrelenting wave of change in a positive direction. The work of men such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John Kennedy turned the attitude of a nation to seek an end to civil injustice. The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 enforced accountability in matters of discrimination on the job.


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted to outlaw discrimination against Americans regarding religious preference, age, sex and race. Title VII of the act created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC. The commission was tasked to investigate and mediate complaints of harassment and discrimination in the workplace, but until the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 was passed, it had no real power to enforce change.

Power of Litigation

Prior to the 1972, the EEOC was referred to by civil rights groups as a “toothless tiger.” The act empowered the commission to file legal suits in federal court. According to the EEOC, the 1972 amendments were designed to give the commission the authority to "back up" its administrative findings and to increase the jurisdiction and reach of the agency.

Delegation of Authority

In 1972, branches for Regional Directors and District Directors were created within the EEOC to help alleviate the case load, which was backlogged with more than 50,000 cases. The act gave the offices the power to issue “reasonable cause” and "no reasonable cause” letters of determination in matters where the commission had already set a precedent. The commission reserved the authority to resolve cases with no precedent.

Equal Rights Broadened

The Equal Opportunity Act of 1972 extended the authority of Title VII to include local, state and federal employment agencies, which provided protection for an additional 10 million citizens. The act reduced the minimum number of employees from 25 to 15 that an employer can maintain without being subject to Title VII. The legislation also provided equal rights protection in educational institutions.

Womens' Rights

As a result of the act of 1972, the EEOC amended its principles regarding women and pregnancy in the workplace. It prevented employers from forcing women to take leaves of absence during pregnancy, or terminating employees that become pregnant.