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What Is Title VII?

Title VII ("Title 7") almost always refers to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is perhaps the most widely used federal anti-discrimination law. The statute makes it illegal for employers to:

  • Discriminate against employees on the basis of certain characteristics or personal traits
  • Retaliate against employees who report such discrimination (for example, firing an employee for filing a report) 

Employers who violate Title VII may become subject to a number of legal consequences, including paying damages and being required to readjust company policies.

What Types of Personal Traits and Characteristics Does Title VII Cover?

Under Title VII, certain “classes” of people are protected based on their personal traits or characteristics. For example, Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee or future employee based on their:

  • National Origin
  • Race or skin color
  • Religious Beliefs
  • Sex or Gender

Thus, employers may not base important decisions on the personal traits and characteristics listed above. They may not:  refuse to hire you, fire you, deny you a promotion, demote you, pay you less than other workers for the same type of work, or harass you based on these “protected categories”.

Does Title VII Cover Any Other Types of Violations?

Over the years, Title VII has been expanded to include a variety of other workplace-related violations. For example, workplace disputes involving sexual harassment, reverse discrimination, interracial marriages, and pregnancy are often filed under the umbrella of Title VII. 

In addition, any company policy that conflicts with a person in a discriminatory manner may be considered a violation, depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding the employment arrangement. Regarding company policies and Title VII, employers generally may not:

  • Discriminate based on a person’s accent or manner of speaking (i.e., “English-only” work policies are suspect)
  • Schedule promotional exams or other important selection processes that purposely conflict with an employee’s day of worship
  • Knowingly enforce dress codes that conflict with religious attire
  • Require mandatory training sessions in violation of non-discriminatory religious provisions (such as mandatory meditation sessions)

Therefore, although it focuses primarily on employment discrimination, the scope of Title VII has broadened to include a number of different employment-related disputes.

What Are the Remedies for Violations of Title VII?

An employee who has been subjected to discrimination under Title VII usually has 180 days to file a complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). The EEOC will then launch an investigation to determine what types of remedies are appropriate.

Remedies for Title VII violations may include: damages for losses including attorney’s fees, reinstatement to the previous job position (if the employee was terminated), requiring the employer to re-adjust their policies, and in some limited instances, punitive damages.

An employee usually must file their claim with the EEOC before they are allowed to file a private civil lawsuit. However, the EEOC will sometimes file a civil lawsuit on behalf of the employee if it is appropriate. 

In the event that the EEOC cannot provide a suitable remedy, they may often issue the employee a “right to sue” letter. This is a letter granting the employee permission to file a private lawsuit in the appropriate state or federal court.  

Do I Need a Lawyer for Title VII Violations?

If you have been discriminated against in the workplace, you may have a claim under Title VII. An employment lawyer can assist you in filing your claim with the EEOC, or they can represent you in court if a civil lawsuit is necessary.  Experienced attorneys can help explain your rights under Title VII and can determine the appropriate course of action for your case. 

Photo of page author Adam Vukovic

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 04-11-2018 07:42 PM PDT

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