Overview of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. It applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments. Title VII also applies to private and public colleges and universities, employment agencies, and labor organizations.




What does Title VII say?
What remedies do I have under Title VII?
What will the EEOC do after I have filed a charge of discrimination?
What relief is available if there is a finding of sex discrimination by the court?
What cases provide more information about Title VII?
Retaliation

What does Title VII say?

In part, Title VII states

a) It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or (2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. (b) It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employment agency to fail or refuse to refer for employment, or otherwise to discriminate against, any individual because of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, or to classify or refer for employment any individual on the basis of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
For more Title VII language see http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/vii.html.

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What remedies do I have under Title VII?

Important time limits apply to sex discrimination claims under Title VII. You have 180 days, or six months, from the date of the last incident of discrimination to file a complaint with the EEOC. This 180-day filing deadline is extended to 300 days if the charge also is covered by a state or local antidiscrimination law. Using internal procedures at your workplace does not extend the time limit under federal law, although it may under some state laws. To preserve your sex discrimination claim under Title VII, contact the EEOC to find out the time limit that applies to you. To preserve your sex discrimination claim under state law, contact the state fair employment practices agency in your state. You do not need an attorney to file a complaint with the EEOC. Back to Top


What will the EEOC do after I have filed a charge of discrimination?

Your employer will be notified that a charge of discrimination has been filed, and the EEOC will begin an investigation. The EEOC may attempt to settle the charge of discrimination or may refer the charge to its mediation program, which is a voluntary, confidential process requiring the consent of both parties. If the EEOC is unable to reach a settlement agreement, and it is a private employer, the EEOC may file a lawsuit in federal court. If the employer is a public employer, the EEOC will refer the matter for litigation to the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.

The EEOC may also choose to dismiss the charge. When a charge is dismissed, or if the EEOC is unable to reach an agreement to settle the complaint after finding discrimination, the EEOC issues a notice of the individual’s right to file a lawsuit on her or his own behalf within 90 days. Individuals who have filed a charge with the EEOC have the right to request this notice if they wish to proceed to court and the EEOC has not completed its process. Back to Top


What relief is available if there is a finding of sex discrimination by the court?

If there is a finding of sex discrimination, relief is intended to make the individual “whole”; in other words, to put the individual in the place she or he would have been had the discrimination not occurred. Such relief can include back pay, front pay, hiring, promotion or tenure, and reinstatement. Damages may be available to compensate for monetary losses, future monetary losses, and mental anguish and inconvenience. Punitive damages also may be available if an employer acted with malice or reckless indifference. Additional remedies may include attorney’s fees, expert witness fees, and court costs. Back to Top


What cases provide more information about Title VII?

Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971)
In a race discrimination case, the U.S. Supreme Court used “disparate impact” theory to analyze employment discrimination under Title VII.

McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973)
The Supreme Court articulated the framework for proving disparate treatment discrimination. The McDonnell Douglas four-part test requires a plaintiff establish a prima facie case by showing that she (1) belongs to a protected class, (2) is qualified for the position, (3) suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) was replaced with someone outside the protected class.

Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248 (1981)
In a decision that made it harder for plaintiffs to prove discrimination in Title VII cases, the Supreme Court ruled that the defendant must produce a legitimate, nondiscriminatory explanation for its decision, but that the defendant does not have to persuade the court that it was actually motivated by this reason.

Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986)
The Supreme Court held that plaintiffs could establish Title VII violations by showing that discrimination based on sex created a hostile work environment.

Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989)
The Supreme Court examined the issue of mixed motives — legitimate and discriminatory motives — in disparate treatment cases and held that sex discrimination must have played a motivating part in the employment decision to hold employers liable, but it does not have to be the only motivation.

Automobile Workers v. Johnson Controls, Inc., 499 U.S. 187 (1991)
The Supreme Court reviewed Johnson’s policy barring the participation of potentially fertile women in occupations that could be detrimental to their reproductive capacities. The court found that the policy constituted sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The court noted that even well-intentioned policies are forbidden if they result in discrimination and that this policy discriminated against women by not also requiring men to demonstrate proof of medical sterility, despite the fact that lead exposure had also proved hazardous to male reproductive systems.

St. Mary’s Honor Center v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502 (1993)
Imposing additional burdens on plaintiffs, the Supreme Court concluded that even if a plaintiff could demonstrate that the employer lied about its reason for its employment decision, the plaintiff would also need to show that the employer lied specifically to mask discrimination.

Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742 (1998)

Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775 (1998)
In Ellerth and Faragher, the Supreme Court found that employers are vicariously liable under Title VII for sexual harassment by supervisors that result in a tangible employment action, such as a demotion or reduction in pay, whether or not there had been notice to the employer of the harassment and regardless of the existence of policies to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Where no tangible employment action results, employers may limit or avoid liability if they can demonstrate (1) that they exercised reasonable care in preventing and promptly correcting any sexual harassment; and (2) that the plaintiff unreasonably failed to take advantage of such procedures. This standard applies to both quid pro quo and hostile environment sexual harassment claims.

Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., 523 U.S. 75 (1998)
The Supreme Court held that Title VII bars all forms of sex discrimination, including same-sex sexual harassment.

Clark County School District v. Breeden, 533 U.S. 912 (2001)
The Supreme Court held that a single remark does not constitute harassment under Title VII, affirming the rule that sexual harassment must be severe and pervasive. Back to Top


Retaliation

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids an employer from retaliating against an employee because of the employee’s opposition to “any practice made an unlawful practice” by Title VII, or the employee’s participation in “an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under [Title VII].” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). Back to Top

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