Title VII (The Civil Rights Act of 1964)

Editor's Note: Understand how to comply with Title VII in all aspects of employment.

Beth P. ZollerOverview: 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

Latest items in Title VII (The Civil Rights Act of 1964)

  • Transgender Workplace Rights: EEOC Releases Fact Sheet, North Carolina Lawsuits Filed

    Date:
    May 11, 2016
    Type:
    News

    Transgender rights in the workplace garner national attention as the EEOC issues a Fact Sheet and the Department of Justice challenges North Carolina's enforcement of its Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act (House Bill 2).

  • EEOC's Enforcement Strategy Yields $17 Million Verdict in Sexual Harassment Case

    Date:
    September 25, 2015
    Type:
    News

    A federal court in Miami has finalized a $17 million jury verdict against Moreno Farms of Felda, Florida, for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  • EEOC Says Workplace Sexual Orientation Bias Is Illegal

    Date:
    July 20, 2015
    Type:
    News

    In a historic ruling, the EEOC has found that sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

  • Supreme Court Rules Against Abercrombie & Fitch in Religious Bias Case

    Date:
    June 2, 2015
    Type:
    News

    In EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, the Supreme Court has ruled that a Muslim woman can move forward with her religious discrimination lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The woman, who wears a hijab, claimed she was denied a job because of the company's appearance policy.

  • Podcast: How Employer Uproar Helped Amend Controversial Indiana Law

    Date:
    April 20, 2015
    Type:
    Podcasts and Webinars

    This XpertHR podcast examines the uproar over the controversial Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Opponents had claimed the original measure sanctioned discrimination against the LGBT community. Indianapolis employment attorney Stuart Buttrick, of Faegre Baker Daniels discusses how employer complaints sparked an amendment to the law.

  • Indiana Religious Freedom Law Confounds Employers

    Date:
    March 30, 2015
    Type:
    News

    Indiana Governor Mike Pence has signed a controversial law that prevents the government from infringing on a business's or individual's religious liberty in the Hoosier State. The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) allows any for-profit business to assert a free exercise of religion claim. But opponents claim this law sanctions discrimination against the LGBT community.

  • Retaliation - Supervisor Briefing

    Type:
    Supervisor Training

    This briefing for supervisors examines the law and best practices for understanding, preventing and responding to unlawful retaliatory behavior in the workplace.

  • EEOC Stands Firm on Criminal Background Checks Despite Concerns by States

    Date:
    October 3, 2013
    Type:
    News

    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.

  • New Podcast Examines Key Supreme Court Wins for Employers

    Date:
    September 27, 2013
    Type:
    News

    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.

  • Disclosures to Person Who Lacks Authority to Correct Wrongdoing Protected Under Federal Whistleblower Protection Act

    Date:
    September 24, 2013
    Type:
    Law Reports

    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.

About this topic

HR guidance on how to maintain and enforce policies and practices that prohibit discrimination, harassment and retaliation under Title VII.