Overview: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits applicant and employee discrimination and harassment based on race, color, sex, religion and national origin. It applies to almost all employers who employ more than 15 employees with some exceptions (i.e., Native American tribes, religious groups, bona fide nonprofit private membership organizations). Further, many states and municipalities maintain similar laws regarding equal opportunity in the workplace.
Title VII applies to all aspects of employment including hiring, firing, promotion and retention. It also prohibits retaliation for complaining of harassment or discrimination.
Title VII prohibits disparate treatment discrimination (treating an individual unfairly based on his or her protected class status) as well as disparate impact discrimination (when a neutral workplace policy or practice negatively affects individuals in a protected class).
In order to comply with Title VII, an employer should make sure to maintain policies and practices that do not discriminate against individuals based on a protected class.
An employer should make sure that all employment decisions are well documented and based upon job-related criteria, rather than the applicant or employee's protected class. This will assist the employer in defending any potential employment discrimination claims.
Further, an employer should aim to provide training to all supervisors and employees regarding its zero tolerance policy for discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
Trends: Since its passage, the parameters of Title VII have continually expanded, and now prohibit sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and more.
In fact just recently, in Macy v. Holder, EEOC No. 012012082, the EEOC ruled that employment discrimination based on gender identity or transgender status is prohibited under Title VII as a form of unlawful sex discrimination.
However, employers should keep in mind that the US Supreme Court has reinforced the notion that religious entities are exempt from Title VII.
In 2012, the Court ruled in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, 132 S. Ct. 694 (2012), that the ministerial exception under Title VII and the First Amendment prohibited a teacher who performed religious functions at a parochial school from bringing a claim for employment discrimination.
Author: Beth P. Zoller, JD, Legal Editor
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently responded to a letter from state attorneys general urging the EEOC to reconsider aspects of its 2012 Enforcement Guidance on the use of arrest and conviction records by employers. In response, the EEOC reiterated its position that while it is not illegal for employers to conduct criminal background checks, the use of such background checks based on arrest and conviction records could have a disparate impact on minority groups resulting in discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
While the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act has drawn the most attention, other key opinions from the 2012-2013 term also affect HR. In a new podcast, our editorial team examines a pair of wins for employers in cases involving Title VII of the Civil Rights Act--Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar and Vance v. Ball State - plus much more.
In Bonds v. Leavitt, 629 F.3d 369 (4th Cir. 2011), the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals addressed whether an employee who "blew the whistle" to a person who lacked authority to correct the wrongdoing was protected from retaliation under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), in addition to other employment law claims.
The Supreme Court's 2013 schedule featured a number of employment-related decisions that will affect the HR realm, including a pair wins for employers in cases involving Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The latest XpertHR podcast looks at these rulings and their implications.
XpertHR's Financial Services Resource Center for HR helps financial services employers handle their most challenging employment issues by bringing relevant resources together in one place for easy access.
The Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 that retaliation claims filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act are subject to a higher standard of proof than discrimination claims. The June 24 ruling in Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar represents a victory for employers.
XpertHR has updated two of its state sections, Connecticut and New Jersey, to include further guidance on handling employee "whistleblowers" and to include a major exception to age-discrimination claims. Employers with locations in these states should review the additions to remain compliant with the law and proactive in preventing litigation.
XpertHR takes you inside the Supreme Court with full coverage of the Title VII retaliation case of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, including sound from the justices themselves. Depending on the outcome, the impact could extend to other employment laws.
Congressional lawmakers recently reintroduced two bills that would expand current federal protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals.
The Supreme Court heard arguments in a case with big implications for employer liability in retaliation lawsuits. The case arises under Title VII's retaliation provision, but could impact other employment laws as well.
HR guidance on how to maintain and enforce policies and practices that prohibit discrimination, harassment and retaliation under Title VII.