People who are members of one of the protected classes are protected against workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on their protected statuses in all aspects of the employment relationship. Some of the areas of employment in which violations can occur include recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training, disciplining, promoting, making job assignments, providing benefits, and firing. Workers need to understand whether Title VII applies to them and their employers. The legal team at Swartz Swidler can help people understand the potential rights that they might have when they have been discriminated against at work.
What employers are covered by Title VII?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers private and public sector employers with 15 or more workers. Title VII also covers employment agencies, labor organizations, and the federal government. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces Title VII.
People who are employed by businesses that are covered by Title VII cannot be denied jobs or treated adversely based on their perceived religious, racial, sexual, religious, or national characteristics. Employers cannot treat workers differently based on them associating with others who are members of a protected group.
Employers cannot make employment decisions about workers based on the assumptions or stereotypes that they might have about the workers’ protected characteristics. For example, an employer cannot refuse to promote a female employee based on the supervisor’s belief that women are not effective leaders.
Employment policies that violate Title VII
In some cases, a policy or employment practice may violate Title VII if it disparately impacts members of a protected group or results in disparate treatment. Disparate treatment occurs as a result of an employer’s intentional discrimination. For example, a policy at a company that women cannot be named to executive positions would violate the prohibitions against sex-based discrimination under Title VII. Employers are also prohibited from having policies or practices of segregating members of a protected group away from other workers. For example, an employer cannot make all of its Hispanic employees work in a separate area away from its other employees.
There are some situations in which an exception exists to the general rule prohibiting disparate treatment. This involves situations in which not having a protected characteristic is a bona fide qualification for the job. The employer might defend against a claim of disparate treatment by arguing that the requirement might appear to be discriminatory, it is a bona fide qualification for the particular position. For example, a casting director for a movie about Thomas Jefferson might only consider white male actors to play Jefferson because of the role.
Facially neutral employment policies may also violate Title VII if they have a disparate impact on members of a protected group. Employers that have policies that allegedly disparately impact members of specific groups might defend against the discrimination claim by arguing that it is a business necessity or is related to the job’s performance. An employer that has a policy of only recruiting job candidates at a conference where all of the attendees are white could violate Title VII because of the disparate impact on candidates of other races.
Harassment based on an employee’s protected characteristics is also prohibited by Title VII. The harassment must be pervasive and severe enough to form the basis of a valid discrimination complaint. If someone harasses you at work, you should tell the person that you are offended by his or her behavior and tell your employer about what happened. If you do not tell the offender that his or her behavior is unwelcome, it could harm your claim of discrimination. If you are the victim of repeated harassment based on your protected characteristics, follow the grievance procedures that re outlined by your company so that your employer will have the chance to fix the situation. If you do not file a complaint with your company before filing a discrimination charge, your claim will likely fail.
Employers cannot retaliate against employees for filing discrimination claims, participating in an investigation, or opposing workplace discrimination. Workers who are the victims of retaliation may prevail on their retaliation claims even if their discrimination complaints are determined to be unfounded.
Who is covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act covers all of the following:
- Private and public sector employers with 15 or more workers
- State and local governmental agencies
- Employment agencies
- Apprenticeship programs
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not cover federal employees or independent contractors. However, federal employees are protected against discrimination by other federal anti-discrimination laws.
Get help from Swartz Swidler
If you are a member of a protected group and believe that you were discriminated against by your employer, talk to an attorney at Swartz Swidler to learn about your rights. Call us to schedule a free consultation at 856.685.7420 or contact us by filling out our contact form.