Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA) prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. There have been several notable amendments to the original CRA enactment in 1964. The act protects prospective and incumbent employees against those prohibited acts of failing or refusing to hire or discharging or discriminating with respect to promotion decisions.

The most practical legislation to ensure compliance regarding these matters was the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) seeks to prevent unlawful discriminatory employment practices by investigating complaints and advocating on behalf of complainants. If the respondent is a public organization such as a public agency or government agency, and the EEOC finds an unlawful employment practice, the EEOC requests the organization to refrain. If the responding organization does not agree with the findings of the EEOC, the EEOC may commence a civil action. The court adjudicating the case then makes a determination. The court may reinstate or hire employees with or without back pay or any other relief. Discrimination may also be remedied by altering policies. Respondents may also appeal adverse rulings.

According to the CRA, employers may not engage in practices that may have a “disparate impact” on employees of a particular race, gender, religion, or national origin. Disparate impact occurs when a particular group is not hired or promoted at the same rate as another group. Proving a disparate impact practice may be difficult. The employee (the “plaintiff”) must prove prima facie evidence of disparate impact. If the plaintiff is successful, the burden of proof then shifts to the employer, the “respondent,” who must then claim that the selection methods and decisions are job related. Bonifide occupational qualifications (BFOQs) are requirements necessary for specific employment. For example, people who want to be public safety workers such as police officers and firefighters must be physically fit.

Unlawful employment practices may consist of discriminating against a particular race by not hiring or promoting because of race or not hiring or promoting members of that race at the same rate of other races hired or promoted. Violations involving national origin may consist of “English-speaking only” work rules. Employers may not discriminate because of accent or manner of speaking. Employers may not schedule examinations or other selection or promotional exams in conflict with employees’ days of worship. The employer may not also maintain a restrictive dress code in conflict with specific religious attire. Also, mandatory “new age” training programs such as yoga or meditation may conflict with the nondiscriminatory provisions of the religious. As of 2002, the EEOC handled between 75,000 and 80,000 complaints each year.

The Civil Rights Act (and subsequent amendments) grants power to recover compensatory damages and punitive damages for violations of other laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 amended several provisions of Title VII including extending the category aggrieved parties to include United State citizens working in foreign countries and clarifying what is necessary for the plaintiff to prove.


Inside Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964