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H.R.4275 - Justice for Wards Cove Workers Act
To amend the Civil Rights Act of 1991 with respect to the application of such Act.
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Mr. MCDERMOTT introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce, and in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concernedCommentsClose CommentsPermalink
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
(1) In 1974, Frank Atonio, a United States citizen of Samoan descent, and 9 other minority salmon workers filed a class-action employment discrimination suit under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against Wards Cove Packing Company that eventually involved 2,000 workers of Filipino, Samoan, Chinese, Japanese, and Alaska native descent.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(3) Nearly all of the company’s unskilled, lower-paid cannery-line workers were ethnic minorities. Nearly all of the higher-paid machinists, engineers, and quality-control personnel were Caucasian.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(4) The 2 groups lived in separate dormitories and ate in separate mess halls. One machine was dubbed the ‘Iron Chink,’ and living quarters for Filipino workers were referred to as the ‘Flip House.’CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(5) In 1989, the Supreme Court in Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio ruled in the company’s favor, 5-4, rolling back plaintiff’s rights in discrimination cases. The court ruling shifted the burden of proof from employers to employees alleging workplace discrimination.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(7) Section 402(b) of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 contained an exception clause for cases in which a complaint was filed in 1975 and decided in 1983: ‘Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, nothing in this Act shall apply to any disparate impact case for which a complaint was filed before March 1, 1975, and for which an initial decision was rendered after October 30, 1983.’ Only 1 case falls within this exclusion, that being the Wards Cove case.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(8) Section 402(b) of such Act effectively blocked the expansion of procedural and substantive rights provided by the Civil Rights Act of 1991 from taking effect to the very people whose lawsuit shed light into discrimination in the workplace.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(9) In March 1993, President William Jefferson Clinton announced his support to remove the exemption, stating that ‘It is contrary to all of our ideas to exclude any American from the protection of our civil-rights laws’.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
(10) The Civil Rights Act of 1991 is considered to be the most comprehensive civil rights legislation to pass Congress since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Like the 1964 landmark Act, the 1991 Act prohibits all discrimination in employment based on race, gender, color, religious, or ethnic considerations.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink
SEC. 3. AMENDMENTS.
SEC. 4. APPLICATION AND CONSTRUCTION.
(a) Application- For purposes of determining the application of the amendments made by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, such amendments shall apply to a case that was subject to section 402(b) of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of this Act) in the same manner and to the same extent as such amendments apply to any case brought under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (
(b) Construction- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to alter, or shall be considered to be evidence of, congressional intent regarding the application of such amendments to any case that was not subject to section 402(b) of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.CommentsClose CommentsPermalink