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Senate passage of civil rights cited as 'positive move for all.' (National League of Cities president Sidney Barthelemy)

NLC President Sidney Barthelemy hailed the Senate's 95-5 vote last week to pass the NLC-supported civil rights bill as "a positive move for all Americans." The House, which is scheduled to begin consideration of the Senate-passed bill today, is expected to pass and send the measure to President Bush for his signature by midweek.

In addition to clarifying or overturning seven recent Supreme Court decisions, the bill extends to women and other minority groups an opportunity to recover damages for intentional discrimination in the workplace.

The legislation also extends civil rights coverage to all Senate employees and to executive branch political appointees. Although Treasury would initially be required to pay any damages awarded a plaintiff for intentional discrimination, the bill requires that senators and the president reimburse the Treasury for such payments within 60 days.

Highlights of the measure

Discrimination by Nongovernmental Entities: The legislation prohibits all racial discrimination in the making and enforcement of contracts and extends new protections against impairment by nongovernmental discrimination and impairment under color of state law.

Coverage of Civil Rights Laws: The bill clarifies that the civil rights laws apply to and prohibit discrimination in all aspects of employment (i.e., discriminatory hiring, promotion and firing, as well as harassment in the workplace).

Intentional Discrimination: The bill provides that intentional discrimination is always unlawful, even if there is another, lawful motive for the challenged job action.

Seniority Systems: The bill specifically allows a challenge to a seniority system to be brought at the time the individual alleging the discrimination is actually affected.

Burden of Proof: The bill makes certain changes to the current rules governing the burden of proof in civil rights cases. First, the bill provides that once the plaintiff presents evidence that an employment practice adversely affects women or minorities, the burden shifts to the employer to show that the practice is "job-related and consistent with business necessity." Second, the bill requires that plaintiffs identity the hiring or promotion practice that is alleged to have a "disparate impact" on the work force.

Damages--Intentional Discrimination: Under the bill, women, religious minorities and individuals with a disability may recover compensatory and punitive damages for unlawful intentional discrimination. Compensatory and punitive damages were previously available only to ethnic and racial minorities.

Damage Limitations: the total amount of compensatory and punitive damages may not exceed (1) $50,000 IN the case of a numicipality with more than 15 and fewer than 101 employees; (2) $100,000 in the case of a municipality with more than 100 and fewer than 201 employees; (3) $200,000 in the case of a municipality with more than 200 and fewer than 501 employees; and (4) $300,000 in the case of a municipality with more than 500 employees.

Expert Witness Fees: The bill clarifies that successful plaintiffs in civil rights suits may recover fees paid to expert witnesses.

Consent Decrees Binding: The bill clarifies that individuals and groups may be bound by a consent decrees when they had an opportunity to object to the consent decree at the time ti was entered or, they had their interests represented by an earlier party to the decree.

Test Norming: The bill makes it unlawful for a municipality to use different cutoff scores for, adjust the scores of, or otherwise alter the results of, employment related tests on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
COPYRIGHT 1991 National League of Cities
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Herber, Kate
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Nov 4, 1991
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