Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a pivotal piece of anti-discrimination legislation that protects certain classes of people. Title VII prohibits discriminatory behavior as well as retaliation against people who report discrimination or cooperate in investigations of alleged discrimination.
Under Title VII, a person may not be discriminated against on the basis of:
These categories of protection can be broader than they initially appear. For example, while sex discrimination includes all of the obvious aspects of sexual harassment such as requests for sexual favors or threats of assault, it also includes discriminatory behavior towards pregnant people, employees of differing or marginalized sexual orientations, or of certain gender identities.
In addition to forbidding discrimination and seeking to protect employees from discrimination in the workplace, Title VII also offers protections for employees who attempt to stop discriminatory behavior. Under Title VII, employees are protected from retaliation if they choose to take action against discrimination. This can range from official measures like complaining about discrimination on a coworker’s behalf or participating in an anti-discrimination lawsuit to smaller acts like reasonably opposing discriminatory behavior or simply helping to protect a coworker from being the target of unwanted abuse or advances.
Title VII has not remained static since 1964. Over time amendments and supplementary laws have been created to broaden the scope of Title VII’s jurisdiction. For example, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 explicitly amended Title VII to include sex discrimination based on whether someone was pregnant to the list of stated protections for employees.
Title VII is largely enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This federal agency enforces all federal laws regarding discrimination by employers against job applicants and employees. The commission commonly handles all issues of discrimination that face protected class members of Title VII.
In addition to investigating Title VII violations, the EEOC also investigates employers who violate the Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating against disabled workers or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act by discriminating against workers over 40 on the basis of their age.
Most employers are under the jurisdiction of these anti-discrimination laws and therefore are subject to the EEOC’s rules. Typically, all employees who are members of companies with 15 or more employees, labor unions, and employment agencies are able to have their complaints filed with the EEOC. Additionally, a worker may file an EEOC complaint about their work situation at any time, whether that is during hiring, firing, or temporary probation.
In general, once the EEOC receives a complaint they will assess the allegations of the complaint and then make a finding. If they find that there was no discrimination as determined by law, then the charge is dismissed and the case is closed. If there has been some form of illegal discrimination discovered, then the commission may choose to pursue the claim.
In general, there are two ways that the EEOC can pursue a discrimination charge: mediation and litigation. The EEOC’s primary method of resolving disputes is mediation. If both the employer and employee accept the offer for the commission’s free mediation services, then the outcome of the mediation is the binding solution to the charges. If the mediation is refused, or the mediation breaks down, then the EEOC will appoint an investigator to more thoroughly investigate the matter and legal charges may be considered.
If the case is found to fit the EEOC’s criteria, then the EEOC itself will bring a discrimination case against the employer in question. If the EEOC does not choose to intervene or dismiss an employee’s case, they will send the employee a “right to sue” letter. This letter begins a 90-day timer for the employee to file a lawsuit based on their alleged discrimination.
If you have suffered discrimination in violation of your Title VII rights and the EEOC has not taken your case, you may be able to file an employment discrimination lawsuit in order to find the justice you deserve. In order to file and prevail in this lawsuit, you will need the help of an experienced Employment Law Attorney.
An experienced Employment Law attorney can zealously advocate on your behalf in order to secure the best possible outcome for your case. Using their legal expertise, trial tactics, and expert witnesses, your Employment Law attorney will be able to gather and present evidence in the most compelling way to support your allegations of Title VII discrimination.