Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and potential employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
This act is a federal anti-discrimination law and applies to employers in private sectors as well as local, state and federal governments.
What Kinds of Discriminatory Practices are Covered Under Title VII?
Since 1964, several cases across the U.S. have expanded the types of employment practices that are deemed discriminatory. While this list includes examples of prohibited employment discrimination, it is not exhaustive.
An employer who does any of the following on the basis of an employee’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin has likely violated Title VII:
- Hiring or firing
- Compensating, classifying or assigning an employee
- Transferring, promoting, laying off or demoting
- Job advertisements
- Recruitment of new employees
- Testing of employees
- Banning or allowing the use of company spaces or equipment
- Access to training or apprenticeship programs
- Creating dress codes intentionally designed to inhibit religious employees
- Access to retirement, disability or fringe benefits
- Scheduling work or other work activities that intentionally conflict with the employee’s religious holiday
- Harassment or failing to resolve a co-workers harassing behavior
What Should I Do if I am Experiencing Title VII Discrimination?
The first step is to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. This governmental organization is tasked with educating employees and employers, investigating claims and mediating claims regarding workplace discrimination.
The affected employee or former employee only has 180 days to file a complaint with the EEOC after experiencing the unlawful discriminatory action. Failure to do so may limit or prevent the employee from seeking further relief.
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What Happens After I file an EEOC Claim?
After a complaint has been made, the EEOC notifies the employer of the complaint and launches an investigation. In doing so, the EEOC may attempt to resolve the problem through mediation with the complainant and the employer.
If they are unable to resolve the issue, the EEOC has the right to file a lawsuit against the employer or if the EEOC declines to do so, they must provide the complainant with a right to sue notice. The complainant has the right to file a lawsuit once in receipt of the notice.
If I am Successful in a Title VII Lawsuit, What Remedies are Available?
An employer found liable for employment discrimination can be subjected to any number of the following remedies depending on the length, nature and severity of the discrimination:
- Money damages for lost pay and other compensation including attorney’s fees resulting from the lawsuit.
- In some cases, punitive damages may be available.
- Reinstatement of the employee to their former position if wrongfully terminated, demoted or transferred.
- Policy changes to the employer’s operations may be ordered to rectify discriminatory workplace practices.
- Removal of any “bad actors” in the company or organization such as a harassing coworker or discriminatory supervisor.
Can My Employer Fire Me for Reporting Discrimination?
No. It is illegal under Title VII for an employer to retaliate in any way for a employee’s complaint or speaking out regarding discrimination including employees who report such activities that are targeting other employees.
I’m Not Ready to File a Complaint, What Can I Do to Protect My Rights?
If you are not ready to file a complaint, you can do the following to protect your rights. Be sure to remember the 180 day deadline regarding complaints to the EEOC.
- Check your employee handbook or contact human resources for other methods and resources to resolve the discrimination internally.
- Contact a counselor at the EEOC who can offer information and options even if you are not ready to report.
- Keep written and detailed accounts of any discriminatory activities including copies of any messages. Also, keep a record of all positive accolades or reviews you receive at work.
- Continue to perform your job to the best of your ability.
- Talk to trusted family and friends about your experience; it can be extremely challenging to deal with discrimination alone.
Should I Consult a Lawyer Regarding Title VII Discrimination?
Yes, consulting a local employment lawyer can help you prepare essential documentation and other evidence needed to make your case.
They can also assist you in filing the appropriate complaint and seek additional solutions other than a lawsuit if you desire. A lawyer can draft the complaint and represent you in any settlement discussions and court.