Things to Know About Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

Employers today must understand the various Acts in place that protect employees from discrimination and harassment. One such Act, known as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlines specific protections for employees regarding race, religion, color, sex and national origin. Learning about the Act ensures that employers treat candidates and employees fairly throughout all stages of the hiring process and during employment.


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What is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

The seventh amendment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, called Title VII, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. In the late 1970s, Congress amended the Act by passing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which clarified pregnancy discrimination as unlawful sex discrimination.


Rules employers need to know about the Title VII Act

Because of the Act, employers cannot discriminate in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, segregating or denying benefits to members of the protected classes. Also, they must not discriminate concerning assignments, promotions and pay. 

Violation of the Act may result in legal action against the offending company. That’s why it’s important to understand the rules related to the Title VII Act. This Act applies to:

  • Employers with 15 or more employees
  • Local, state and federal governments
  • Public and private universities
  • Employment agencies
  • Labor organizations

This federal law mandates that employers must treat everyone fairly, regardless of religious, racial, sexual and national characteristics. Hiring decisions based on stereotypes are in violation of the law.

Related: Cultivating Positive Workplace Behavior


Examples of discriminatory policy violations

Instances of employer discrimination happen frequently. Here are some examples of situations that may lead to an employee filing charges against a company:


Unlawful gender role stereotyping during the hiring process

Jenny, a new mother returning to work, was interviewed for a position as a graphic designer for a well-known company. During the interview, Gary, the manager of the marketing department, asked Jenny about the gap in her employment history. She explained that she had given birth to a daughter three months ago, and had quit her previous job to recover from childbirth and spend time with her newborn.


Gary later told the hiring manager that he was concerned that Jenny’s role as a tired, new mother would compromise the quality of her work. A week later, Jenny was notified that she would not be hired. Based on the conversation she had with the interviewer, she decided to file a charge with the EEOC alleging sex discrimination. An investigator later finds the employer in violation of the Title VII Act, stating sex-based stereotypes.


Unlawful denial of compensatory time based on race

Todd, an African-American factory worker, requests compensatory time so he can leave work occasionally to check on his ailing mother. His supervisor, John, rejected his request, stating that his job requires him to be on the floor throughout the entire shift and that leaving would compromise the line’s productivity. Todd’s coworkers, who are all Caucasian, have made similar requests for compensatory time with no issues from the supervisor. Todd files a charge with EEOC, claiming he was unlawfully denied compensatory time based on his race.


Unlawful religious discrimination

Bob, the owner of a hardware store, loves to throw elaborate Christmas parties for his employees every year. He recently advertised a job listing for a store manager and interviewed a man named Jamal for the position. As he was explaining the company benefits to Jamal, he also mentioned the upcoming Christmas party. Jamal told Bob that he does not celebrate Christmas, and instead celebrates Hanukah. Bob ended the interview shortly thereafter. He told his employees that he wanted to keep looking for someone who would fit in better with their company culture.


Jamal was worried that his comment may have cost him the job, based on the reaction he got from Bob. He knew he had all the right qualifications and many years of experience to support his candidacy. He never heard back from Bob, and later learned through social media that Bob had hired a man with less experience, who was present in many of the company’s Christmas party photos. Jamal filed a charge with the EECO stating religious discrimination, which the investigator supported.

Related: Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace: Five to Consider


Title VII FAQs

Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding the Title VII Act:


Does employee discrimination still happen in the workplace?

Even though discrimination in the workplace is illegal, it does still happen. In 2019 alone, the EEOC reported 72,675 individual charge filings. This does not include charges filed with state or local Fair Employment Practices Agencies.


How do people who experience discrimination file a formal complaint?

People who feel they have been discriminated against in the workplace or during the hiring process may file a complaint through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Claims are either filed in person at an EEOC office, online or by mail. People who need assistance may choose to speak with an EEOC representative by calling 1-800-6669-4000. While charges cannot be made over the phone, representatives are able to provide guidance and explain how to file a charge.


How long do people have to file a complaint after discrimination happens?

Employees who have been violated must file within 180 days from the day the discrimination took place. Those who file do not need to be currently employed by the company in question.


How do the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and Title VII Act differ?

The EPA of 1963 prohibits pay discrimination based on sex, while the Title VII Act protects employees and job applicants throughout any stages of candidacy or employment from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin and sex. The Title VII Act also prohibits harassment in the workplace.


What are the consequences of employer discrimination?

If the EEOC determines that employers are in violation of anti-discrimination laws, employers may receive fines up to $50,000 for smaller companies or $300,000 for companies with more than 500 employees. This may also affect the company’s brand reputation overall.


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