Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Preventing Employment Discrimination

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Before Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law, an employer could reject a job applicant because of their race, religion, sex or national origin. An employer could turn down an employee for a promotion, decide not to give them a particular assignment or in some other way discriminate against that person because they were black or white, Jewish, Muslim or Christian, a man or a woman or Italian, German or Swedish. And it would all be legal.

On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which protects against employer discrimination on the basis of "sex," applies to gay and transgender people. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the opinion for the six-member majority, said, "In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee. We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law."

What is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

When Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, employment discrimination on the basis of an individual's race, religion, sex, national origin or color became illegal. On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is also illegal. All companies with 15 or more employees are required to adhere to the rules set forth by Title VII, which protects workers as well as job applicants. The law also established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a bipartisan commission that is made up of five members appointed by the president. It continues to enforce Title VII and other laws that protect us against employment discrimination.

How Does Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Protect You?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects both employees and job applicants. Here are some ways in which it does that, according to the EEOC:

  • An employer can't make hiring decisions based on an applicant's color, race, religion, sex or national origin. An employer can't discriminate based on these factors when recruiting job candidates, advertising for a job or testing applicants.
  • An employer can't decide whether or not to promote a worker or fire an employee based on stereotypes and assumptions about their color, race, religion, sex or national origin. They can't use this information when classifying or assigning workers.
  • An employer can't use an employee's race, color, religion, sex or national origin to determine their pay, fringe benefits, retirement plans or disability leave.
  • An employer can't harass you because of your race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
  • An employer can't discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

In 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make it illegal to discriminate against pregnant women in matters related to employment.

What To Do If Your Boss or Prospective Employer Fails to Abide by Title VII

As long as an employer makes no employment decisions namely, whether to interview, hire, pay, promote, provide opportunity, discipline, or terminate an employee based on any of the above protected classifications, the employer is living the intent and guidelines of Title VII. 

Still, just because a law is in place doesn't mean people will follow it. Fifty-five years after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was passed, the EEOC received 72,675 individual complaints claiming multiple types of discrimination.

There were 23,976 charges of race discrimination, 23,532 charges of sex discrimination, 2,725 reports of discrimination based on religion, 3,415 claims of color discrimination and 7,009 based on national origin. If you experience discrimination at work or in the hiring process, use the EEOC Public Portal to submit an inquiry, schedule an appointment, or file a charge, or visit an EEOC field office in person.

Article Sources

  1. Supreme Court of the United States. "Syllabus: Bostock vs. Clayton County, Georgia." Accessed June 15, 2020.

  2. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. "Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964." Accessed June 11, 2020.

  3. Supreme Court of the United States. "Syllabus: Bostock vs. Clayton County, Georgia." Accessed June 15, 2020.

  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Civil Rights Requirements- E. Federal Employment Discrimination Laws." Accessed June 11, 2020.

  5. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. "Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices." Accessed June 11, 2020.

  6. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. "The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978." Accessed June 11, 2020.

  7. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. "EEOC Releases Fiscal Year 2019 Enforcement and Litigation Data." Accessed June 11, 2020.

  8. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. "The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978." Accessed June 11, 2020.