Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that protects employees against discrimination based on certain specified characteristics: race, color, national origin, sex, and religion. Under Title VII, an employer may not discriminate with regard to any term, condition, or privilege of employment. Areas that may give rise to violations include recruiting, hiring, promoting, transferring, training, disciplining, discharging, assigning work, measuring performance, or providing benefits.
Title VII applies to employers in both the private and public sectors that have 15 or more employees. It also applies to the federal government, state and local governments, and employment agencies. No person employed by an entity covered by Title VII, or applying to work for that entity, can be denied employment or treated differently with regard to any workplace decision on the basis of perceived racial, religious, national, sexual, or religious characteristics. No employee can be treated differently based on his or her association with someone who has one of these protected characteristics.
Additionally, employment decisions may not be made on the basis of stereotypes or assumptions related to any protected characteristic.
Employment policies and practices may be discriminatory under Title VII based on disparate treatment or disparate impact. Disparate treatment involves intentional discrimination by an employer. Similarly, employees who belong to a protected group cannot be segregated or physically isolated from either other employees or clients. Title VII also prohibits apparently neutral job policies that have a disproportionate impact on protected groups. An exception to the general rule against disparate treatment exists when the lack of a protected characteristic is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) for a particular job. An employer may successfully defend on the grounds that although a particular requirement seems intentionally discriminatory, it is a BFOQ for a job.
Title VII also prohibits harassment based on the victim’s membership in a protected class. Harassment must be unwelcome and either severe or pervasive to be actionable. If you are harassed, it is important to notify the perpetrator that you find his or her behavior offensive and to notify the employer. A failure to give an employer notice can adversely affect a discrimination claim.
It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against you for opposing discrimination under Title VII, for participating in an EEOC investigation of a discrimination claim, or for making a discrimination claim yourself.