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Enforcement of civil rights law in private workplaces: The effects of compliance reviews and lawsuits over time (Kalev & Dobbin 2006)

Citation

Kalev, A., & Dobbin, F. (2006). Enforcement of civil rights law in private workplaces: The effects of compliance reviews and lawsuits over time. Law & Social Equity, 31(4), 855-903.

Highlights

    • The study’s objective was to examine the effectiveness of compliance reviews by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) and lawsuits initiated by individuals or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in reducing discrimination against women and African Americans in management positions.
    • The authors applied a fixed-effects regression model to workforce data in the EEO-1 Employer Information Reports. These data were supplemented by a survey of compliance enforcement activities administered to a random sample of establishments drawn from the EEO-1 reports.
    • The study found that compliance reviews begun in the 1970s increased an establishment’s share of women and African Americans employed as managers, not only in the 1970s but also through the 1980s and 1990s.
    • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the study did not adequately control for existing differences between the study groups. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to OFCCP compliance reviews or to lawsuits. Other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Affirmative Action Executive Orders

Features of the Intervention

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are forbidden from discriminating against their employees on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, or national origin. The law prohibits discrimination in terms, compensation, working conditions, and other aspects of employment; mandates enforcement by courts, rather than juries; and provides civil penalties for violations, including mandatory remedial hiring policies for employers and reinstatement with back pay awards to victims. It also created the EEOC to bring class action litigation against employers for discrimination. The Civil Rights Act initially applied to private sector employers with more than 25 employees; since 1972, it has applied to those with more than 15 employees.

Affirmative action Executive Order 11246, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, reinforced prohibitions in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and earlier executive orders against discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin; subsequent orders and revisions have added sex (1967) and sexual orientation and gender identity (2014) as protected classes. Order 11246 required the federal government and federal contractors with 50 or more employees or $50,000 in contracts to develop written affirmative action plans and ensure equal opportunities for all workers. The order authorized the Secretary of Labor to establish the OFCCP to enforce federal contractors’ compliance. The OFCCP targets for compliance reviews those employers whose EEO-1 reports indicate relatively low employment of women and minorities. The authors noted that the nature of compliance reviews differed over time. Relative to later reviews, reviews in the 1970s were less frequent but more intrusive and more likely to lead to sanctions.

Features of the Study

The authors designed an organizational survey and administered it to a random sample of establishments to gather data on the incidence and dates of compliance reviews and lawsuits. The sample was drawn from the 1999 EEO-1 Employer Information Report, a workforce survey. Before 1982, private employers with at least 50 employees and federal contractors with at least 25 employees were required to file EEO-1 reports; since then, the size requirements have risen to 100 or 50 employees, respectively. The organizational survey response rate was 67 percent. Matching the organizational survey data to EEO-1 data from 1971 to 2002 yielded an analytic sample of 814 establishments.

The authors used regression analyses to examine the effects of compliance reviews and lawsuits on four measures of managerial diversity—the proportion of managers who were white men, white women, African American men, and African American women. In the benchmark model, the authors considered the cumulative number of reviews or lawsuits filed against an establishment to be the predictor of interest; an alternative formulation examined the interaction between the enforcement occurring during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s and establishments’ minority employment shares. Models included fixed establishment effects and time-varying control variables, including federal contractor status, involvement in other regulatory activities (such as whether the establishment adopted an affirmative action plan), organizational characteristics related to human resource policies and unionization, organizational demography, and organizational environment characteristics (such as state and industry employment rates).

Findings

    • The study found that compliance reviews initiated against an establishment in the 1970s significantly increased the share of women and African Americans it employed as managers, not only in the 1970s but also through the 1980s and 1990s. A first compliance review in the 1970s increased the odds of white women in management by an estimated 34 percent, of African American women by 18 percent, and of African American men by 28 percent.
    • Compliance reviews initiated in the 1970s led to significantly greater increases in female and African American employment shares than did reviews conducted in the 1980s.
    • Larger numbers of lawsuits significantly increased employment shares for women and African Americans.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors compared female and African American employment shares among establishments that were party to litigation or a compliance review as a result of allegedly discriminatory practices with shares among establishments that were later or never involved in such activities. However, it is unclear whether establishments facing differing numbers of lawsuits or reviews were similar before the initiation of those lawsuits or reviews. For example, establishments facing more lawsuits or reviews might have tended to have smaller female or African American employment shares relative to other establishments; their lower managerial diversity might have triggered the lawsuits or reviews. Because the comparability of establishments with different numbers of lawsuits or reviews was not established, the relationship between lawsuits and reviews and managerial diversity could reflect not only the effect of reviews and lawsuits on managerial diversity, but also the effects of other factors.

In addition, the authors estimated multiple related impacts on female and African American employment outcomes. Performing multiple statistical tests on related outcomes makes it more likely that some impacts will be found to be statistically significant purely by chance and not because they reflect program effectiveness. The authors did not perform statistical adjustments to account for the multiple tests, so the number of statistically significant findings in these domains is likely to be overstated.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the study did not adequately control for existing differences between the study groups. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to OFCCP compliance reviews or to lawsuits. Other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

January 2016

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