Changes in the American Workplace, 1985-2018

Timeline created by snyder71
  • Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson

    Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson
    This landmark case established that sexual harassment, even without economic impact to the injured party, was a form of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Meritor Savings Bank, n.d.). The unanimous decision introduced "hostile work environment" as an actionable offense and outlined definitions of harassment and consent within the workplace. In the ensuing years, EEOC cases grew exponentially, from 10 in 1986 to 4,626 in 1995 (Cochran, 2004).
  • Americans with Disabilities Act

    Americans with Disabilities Act
    The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibited, for the first time, ability-based discrimination in employment, housing, and public services. This landmark legislation led to new EEOC guidance regarding hiring practices and "reasonable accommodation" requirements (The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, n.d.). Unfortunately, some scholars argue that the ADA has actually led to lower employment rates for disabled individuals due to litigation and cost concerns (Picker, 2019).
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991

    Civil Rights Act of 1991
    The Civil Rights Act (CRA) of 1991 amended existing law by establishing plaintiffs' right to a jury trial and to recoup compensatory and punitive damages (Civil Rights Act of 1991, n.d.). The impact of the 1991 CRA was immediate, as one attorney noted: "The price of discrimination has just increased a thousand-fold" (Loudon, 1992, p. 321). In response, employers examined hiring practices and instituted workplace trainings to reduce the risk of litigation (CRA of 1991, n.d.).
  • Family & Medical Leave Act

    Family & Medical Leave Act
    Signed into law by President Clinton, the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provided up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for certain employees with a serious illness or needing to care for family members. Since 1993, FMLA has been used more than 100 million times, despite its limited scope (Glynn, 2013). It has also spurred conversation regarding work-life balance, the gender wage gap, and the costs and benefits of accommodating employees' family obligations (Hoch, 2013).
  • Windows 95

    Windows 95
    While not the first Microsoft offering, Windows 95 made computing more accessible to non-techies. With important additions such as the user-friendly graphical interface, Start menu, and task bar, Windows 95 allowed for better multitasking and simpler internet and software use (Morris, 2015). Windows 95 also spurred the home PC revolution and made it easier for employees to complete work from home (Hickey, 2015).
  • America Online

    America Online
    Widely expanding internet affordability and accessibility for millions of Americans, AOL's launch of unlimited monthly access featured simple CD-ROM installation, a beginner-friendly interface, and free email (Kulikowski, 2015). AOL's model contributed to the ubiquity of internet use at home and at work, eventually leading to new ways of communicating among teams, the rise of telecommuting, and the growth of digital marketing (Francis, 2019).
  • Skype

    Skype disrupted traditional long-distance telephone communication by utilizing "Voice over IP" technology to allow audio (and later video) communication over the internet (Yeung, 2013). Not only did this make global communication less expensive for individuals and businesses, it also ushered in the "era of always-on connectivity" (Yeung, 2013). Skype's technology led to improved remote team collaboration and new ways of communicating with clients (Moskvitch, 2013).
  • Facebook

    Facebook, launched initially for Ivy League students but later opened to the general public, grew to be the world's most widely-used social media platform. Key innovations included the wall and news feed, which increased the use of the platform for public conversation, news updates, and advertising (Greiner et al., 2019). With Facebook's omnipresence, the platform has contributed to building social and professional networks and blurring lines between individuals' private and public lives.
  • iPhone 1

    iPhone 1
    Although not the first smart phone, the iPhone became, since its launch, the most ubiquitous device in America. Putting email, files, and social media literally at one's fingertips, the iPhone increased the mobility of work and contributed to the always-available employment model. The iPhone also spurred the creation of apps and increased the demand for app-based services, changing the way businesses interact with employees and customers (Dignan, 2017).
  • Stock Market crashes

    Stock Market crashes
    Signaling investors' crisis of confidence at the height of the subprime mortgage crisis, the September 29th, 2008 market drop was, at the time, the largest single-day drop in U.S. history (Amadeo, 2019). In the short term, many Americans lost their jobs, homes, or retirement savings. Long term effects include increased disparities in wealth and educational outcomes, the erosion of "middle-skill industries" (Lowrey, 2017), and generational employment shifts (Ouye, 2011, p. 4).
  • Affordable Care Act

    Affordable Care Act
    Aimed at reducing costs and expanding health insurance coverage for millions of Americans, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided tax credits to individuals and employers, expanded Medicaid, mandated preventative care coverage, and prohibited denial for preexisting conditions (Amadeo, 2019). While the economic impacts of ACA are hotly debated, it's largely affected benefits positively by improving access for individuals not previously covered by employer-provided plans (Lorenzen, 2013).
  • Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

    Burwell v. Hobby Lobby
    This contested Supreme Court decision determined that private corporations are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Specifically, the decision stated that corporations could claim religious exemption to the ACA's contraception mandate and deny coverage in employer-provided plans (Burwell, n.d.). This case further polarized debates about individual versus corporate rights and the potential role of RFRA laws in undermining civil protections (Cohen, 2014).
  • Obergefell v. Hodges

    Obergefell v. Hodges
    This historic Supreme Court decision ruled same-sex marriage protected under the U.S. Constitution, along with all its accompanying rights and responsibilities (Obergefell v. Hodges, n.d.). In addition to increased access to health insurance and other benefits for same sex couples, the shift in public opinion leading up to this ruling highlighted the economic costs of perceived bigotry and spurred many corporations to take increasingly LGBTQ+ inclusive public stances (Socarides, 2015).
  • Harvey Weinstein scandal

    Harvey Weinstein scandal
    Reports of the Hollywood producer's prolific history of sexual harassment and assault led to a national reckoning - or at least debate - on sexism, power, consent, and accountability in the workplace. As the #MeToo movement went viral, many corporations dealt with negative publicity and litigation. In some cases this has led to positive personnel and policy changes, although fears of litigation may also contribute to reduced mentoring and opportunities for some women (Gurchiek, 2018).