This paper discusses the foundations of anti-discrimination law with respect to employment in modern American legal jurisprudence. The advent of the 1964 Civil Rights Act's Title IV measure initiated a protective structure based on categories, or protected classes. Affirmative action is generally specific to protected classes carved out in Civil Rights Act of 1964. Affirmative action primarily designed to redress legacy of Jim Crow. Whereas civil rights law for disabilities is all about reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities and making sure that ones physical limitations don't hinder their access to opportunities Protected classes have been extended to include age, disability and others in later laws. Next,this paper considers a recent landmark paper by Wilkins and Wagner (2014) on the connection between deservingness and perceptions of justice with respect to social policy provisions. Wilkins and Wagner find that cognitive bias is largely ignored in contemporary debates about social provisions, but nevertheless lies at the center of the issue. Belief in a just world is inherently tied to our perceptions of desert and justice in the public sphere.
Protected class is legal category for characteristics of a person that cannot be targeted for discrimination These laws are usually specified in federal anti-discrimination laws but also found in state laws. The so-called BIG 3 (RACE, Color, Religion) are found in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Affirmative action with respect to employment is a stated effort to afford special preference to both minorities and women in employment hiring situations, both being groups historically which have been underrepresented. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act provides guidance to organizations in the area of planning and goal setting to provide appropriate safeguards against members of protected classes. Affirmative action encourages positive measures to ensure equal employment to members of the protected class.(“Illegal Interview” n.d.)
Affirmative action has its basis in bridging inequalities in employment and education that result from historical legacies of past wrongs, harms and hindrances. Whereas laws enacted to ensure equality for people with disabilities have a basis in protecting individuals with disabilities from discrimination. Employment discrimination is prohibited in codified state and federal laws. As explored above, Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws discrimination in employment based on several protected class categories including color, race, religion, nationality or sex. Other federal and state laws have been codified in addition to Title IV that protect employees from discrimination. One such law is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a measure which outlaws workplace discrimination according to any physical disabilities a person may possess. (“Illegal Interview” n.d.) The ADA also prohibits any pre-employment screening that may ask or question about diabilities.. Additionally, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act prohibits pre-employment screening which questions an individual about his or her age. (“Illegal Interview” n.d.)
In their (2014) article for Policy Studies Journal, Vicky Wilkins and Jeffrey Winger explore the relationship between perceived deservedness and prevailing attitudes towards group social provisions. Social policy is at its root a debate about who deserves and who does not deserve access to surplus scarce resources in a society. When decisions are made, they are guided by underlying cognitive biases and or attitudes about the justice and desert. Despite this seemingly obvious fact, Wilkins and Winger (2014) argue that prior attitudinal commitments are for the most part left out in policy debate and discussion. In order to ameliorate this problem and get to heart of the issue, then, Wilkins and Winger (2014) develop a rather fascinating model that places desert right in the center of policymaking discussions. In doing so, they query the root of our basic set of beliefs in the context of typical notions of desert and their relation to justice. In our everyday discussions in American politics, our notions of justice are tied directly to fairness and equal opportunity to succeed. What is interesting is the fact that if our ideals were reflected in reality, then government and social policy would actually be irrelevant and cease to exist. The purpose of these institutions is to reshape a fragmented reality that is filled with injustice and unfairness. Wilkins and Wagner (2014) explore the relationship of cognitive bias to how people ascertain what is fair with respect to social provisions like affirmative action. For those people who a priori hold the assumption that the world is just, then they are automatically committed to a belief that equal opportunity exists by implication. To hold otherwise would be a inherently contradictory. This seemingly simple observation bears large fruits for understanding the strong resistance by a large faction of society towards promoting equal opportunity.
“Illegal Interview Questions and Female Applicants”(n.d). Findlaw.com. Retrieved from
Wilkins, V. M., & Wenger, J. B. (2014). Belief in a just world and attitudes toward affirmative
action. Policy Studies Journal, 42(3), 325-343.