Understanding Title VII and the Rights of Employees

When you were still in school, your history teacher almost certainly touched on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but you may not have appreciated its significance or ability to protect you until you entered the workforce. Title VII, which is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, protects employees against discrimination based on certain protected characteristics such as:

  • Race or color
  • Sex
  • National origin
  • Religion

No person working or applying to work for a company covered by Title VII can be denied employment or treated differently regarding promotion, discipline, advancement opportunities, termination, and other workplace decisions on the basis of the above characteristics. Title VII also protects employees who are associated with someone who has these protected characteristics, such as an employee with a spouse of a different race or ethnic background.

Who is Subject to Title VII?

The following entities are subject to Title VII:

  • Businesses and labor unions with at least 15 employees
  • State and local government offices
  • Employment agencies
  • Apprenticeship programs

These entities are not covered:

  • Employees of the federal government
  • Independent contractors

What Makes a Workplace Policy Discriminatory?

When an employment practice or policy has a disparate impact on a protected group, it may be discriminatory under Title VII. For example, if your company opens a new branch in an area of New York where the population is predominantly white, it may not implement a practice of employing mostly white employees at that location.

It is important to note that in some cases, this type of selective employment decision may be defensible if it involves a bona fide occupational qualification for a certain job. For example, if a film director is making a movie about Queen Elizabeth II, they may only consider white females for the lead role, although on the surface this appears to discriminate on the basis of sex and race.

Workplace Harassment and Title VII

Title VII also protects you from harassment based on your membership in a protected class. For example, if you are Jewish and a co-worker constantly makes derogatory comments about Jewish people in your presence, you can notify your employer and, if they fail to take action, file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for making a discrimination claim or participate in an EEOC investigation.

How to Prove Discrimination Under Title VII

If you believe that you have been discriminated against due to a protected characteristic, there are four elements you need to prove to pursue a claim under Title VII.

  • You are a member of a protected class
  • You were qualified for the position that you applied for or were fired from
  • The employer rejected you by choosing to not hire or promote you (or they chose to fire you)
  • The employer hired or replaced you with someone without a protected characteristic or continued to hold interviews for the position

If you can present evidence of each element, the onus is on the employer to prove that their treatment of you was not discriminatory. If you were terminated or denied a promotion, they would have to show that your job performance did not justify keeping or promoting you.

Contact an Employment Law Attorney

Discrimination under Title VII can be both subtle and appallingly bold. If you’ve been subjected to a career-damaging bias due to your membership in a protected class, you have the right to hold your employer accountable. An employment law attorney at Rosen Law, LLC can help you determine if Title VII applies to your situation and, if it does, seek the compensation you are entitled to. To schedule a consultation, please contact our office.

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