Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

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Title VII Of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees and job applicants from discrimination and sexual harassment at work. Employers, CEOs, Managers, supervisors, coworkers, clients, customers, and nonemployees are prohibited from taking negative (or adverse) employment actions based on specific characteristics (known as protected classes).
For over 25 years, the experienced employment discrimination and sexual harassment lawyers at the Derek Smith Law Group in New York City, Philadelphia, Miami, Los Angeles, and New Jersey have helped victims of Title VII violations get the compensation and justice they deserve.

What Is the Background of the Civil Rights Act?

Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act came on the heels of the assassination of beloved President John F. Kennedy. Amidst civil strife and racial tension, the United States stood at a crossroad.
President Johnson carried on JFK’s legacy by signing the Civil Rights Act. The Act provided sweeping legal reform by prohibiting discrimination in various areas of American life. The most notably affected areas of life were employment and housing.

What Is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Title VII says, “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer…to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because such individual’s race , color, religion, sex, or national origin.
The Act provides protections for employees and job applicants against discrimination in the workplace due to protected classes. Title VII defines protected classes as characteristics shared by a specific group of people. Title VII protected classes include the following groups:
Race
Color
National Origin
Sex/Gender
Religion

Title VII further prevents retaliation, such as wrongful termination, for employees who participate in making complaints of discrimination in the workplace.
To process and litigate claims of discrimination, Title VII authorized Congress to create the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (“EEOC”). This organization is a federal administrative agency tasked with being the government’s right hand in the battle against employment discrimination.

What Was the First Case Heard by the EEOC Regarding Title VII?

The First complaint filed with the EEOC related to female flight attendants seeking protections under the new Title VII. These flight attendants claimed sexual harassment and gender discrimination at work.
Many people saw this complaint as a joke. The running gag was “Title VII is going to require the Playboy Club to give men the equal opportunity to don puff tails and silk ears and work as one of its scantily clad waitresses.” All jokes aside, that’s just what the law did.
Barbara Roads, the union leader for the flight attendants, walked into the EEOC with another blonde stewardess to file a complaint. The complaints included allegations of a ban on marriage, age discrimination, and weight tests.
The Airlines argued that businessmen would be discouraged from flying if they were forced to change their regulations. Martha Griffiths, one of only five female EEOC Directors famously stated, “What are you running, an airline or a whorehouse?” Through hard-fought legal battles, the stewardesses won their case. This win provided teeth not only to Title VII but to the newly established EEOC.

What Does Title VII Protect?

Title VII protects employees and job applicants from being discriminated against on the basis of their race, color, national origin, ethnicity, sex, gender, religion, or creed.

Title VII only applies to employers with over 15 employees. It also applies to labor unions, employment agencies, and Federal and State Governments.

An employee cannot be denied any position due to any status in a protected class or the association with a person within a protected class.

Title VII also protects employees from any forms of retaliation, such as wrongful termination, demotions, or any other adverse employment actions because they decided to report violations of the law.

What Are Examples of Title VII Violations?

Anyone within a company, their clients, and nonemployees may commit actions of discrimination. Examples of Title VII violations include:

  • Making sexist comments that a woman belongs in the kitchen as opposed to an office.
  • Denying a job offer to a black job applicant who is as qualified as the white applicant you hired.
  • Refusing to allow Muslims prayer time throughout the day.
  • Inappropriately grabbing male employees as they pass by your desk.
  • Sending emails with racist jokes to coworkers.
  • Insisting that all employees always speak English, even if it has nothing to do with their job tasks.
  • Indian clients refuse to work with an Indian employee because the employee is too dark.
  • Firing an employee because he reported discrimination to the EEOC.
  • You call ICE against a Mexican job applicant instead of offering him a position.

How Is Sexual Harassment Addressed Under Title VII?

Sexual harassment is a form of sex/gender discrimination under Title VII. Sexual harassment is an unwanted request for sex, unwelcome physical contact, or unwanted sexual comments.

Sexual harassment creates two basic complaints: quid pro quo and a hostile work environment. Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment is occurs when an employer promises favorable treatment to an employee in exchange for sexual favors.

A hostile work environment occurs when an employer creates an environment that a reasonable person finds intimidating. The environment makes it difficult to continue daily tasks.

What Can You Not Discriminate Against?

An employer with over 15 employees cannot discriminate against an individual because of their race, color, national origin, ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, creed, age, disability or pregnancy. Further, an employer cannot retaliate against an individual for participating in a protected activity. A protected activity includes making complaints of discrimination based on one of the above-protected classes.

Discrimination is difficult to define but generally means an individual is being treated differently (lesser) solely because they are a member of a protected class. For instance, if a company held a party and the boss gave everyone a red cup, however, they gave their Indian employee a blue cup with a hole in it, solely because she is Indian or a woman, then that would most likely be actionable discrimination under Title VII.

Much ink has been spilled over exactly what counts as actionable discrimination. In many cases, actions that may seem discriminatory on the surface may be pure coincidence, and an employer may have a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for an adverse employment action. Further, many employers create policies that do not appear discriminatory on the surface but become discriminatory on how they are applied.

The most common form of discrimination is an individual making discriminatory comments based on another individual being a member of a protected class. While all discrimination is equal, there are certain trigger words that almost automatically trigger Title VII protections. Racial slurs, for instance, are usually a sure-fire example of discriminatory conduct, with many Courts ruling that even one instance of the “N-word” is discriminatory.

What Is The Scope Coverage Of Title Vii Of The Civil Rights Act Of 1964?

Title VII is much larger in scope than typical discrimination. Under Title VII, sexual harassment is a form of discrimination. Sexual harassment in the workplace, pornography on a worksite, unwanted request for sex. This creates two basic forms of sexual harassment, quid pro quo, and hostile work environment. Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment is basically when an employer promises to give an employee certain employment benefits based on that employee performing sexual favors for that employer. Hostile work environment sexual harassment is basically an employer creating an environment that a reasonable person would feel the is hostile based on sex, which often comes in the form of sexual joking or repeated requests for sexual favors.

Title VII is broad, but not as far-reaching as most would hope. However, it does protect a wide range of activities, activities that most would not think of as particularly discriminatory or harassing. For instance, in the case of sexual harassment, because many individuals agree to perform sexual acts, they don’t feel as though their claim is actionable. This is a common misconception. If the only reason you performed the sexual act is because a co-worker or supervisor asked you to perform that act, even far away from the workplace, then you may have an actionable claim for workplace sexual harassment, and thus sex-based discrimination under Title VII.

How Do Equal Employment Opportunity Laws Protect Job Applicants?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only covers individuals who already have a job, but also protects individuals in the hiring and recruiting process. Title VII further covers individuals in the application and interview process. Often interviewers will ask questions which are thinly veiled attempt to suss out information that may be damning to the applicant, such as revealing a pregnancy or sexual orientation. Make no mistake, Title VII covers employers who attempt to keep individuals out of their company because those individuals are members of a protected class.

Contact our Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Lawyers Today!

Title VII is the basis for employment discrimination and sexual harassment protections in the workplace. If your employer violated your rights under the law, contact the dedicated attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group today!

The skilled sexual harassment and discrimination attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group have years of experience litigating claims of discrimination under Title VII. Call today at (800) 807-2209 or fill out our online form for your free consultation.

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