Employment Law 101: Understanding Title VII

Employers have a lot of leeway when it comes to who they hire and promote, and why. For many employers, however, there are some limits on how they are able to make these types of decisions. The limits are primarily outlined under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If you feel that you are being discriminated against at work, or you are just interested in protecting your rights, the following brief explanation of what Title VII is can be very helpful.

To Which Employers Does Title VII Apply?
While Title VII offers protections to many employees, it does not apply to every company. In order to be required to comply with Title VII, a company must have at least 15 employees who work for 20 or more hours per week. It also doesn’t apply to private membership clubs that are tax exempt, employers of foreign nationals outside the US, or religious organizations, in some cases.

If you work for a company that doesn’t qualify for Title VII, that doesn’t mean they are able to discriminate without any repercussions. Most states have laws in place that are designed to protect employees of these smaller companies. Even if that is not the case, in your specific situation, there may still be options available for preventing or stopping discrimination.

Types of Conduct Prohibited by Title VII
Companies that do fall under the Title VII regulations are prohibited from refusing to hire, promote, or maintain employment of anyone in a protected class. The employers may not discriminate based on any of the following:  

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Gender (includes pregnancy)
  • National Origin
  • Age
  • Retaliation (for more info on what constitutes workplace retaliation, click here)

Further, other federal laws prevent discrimination on the basis of disability, and state law often provides additional protections against discrimination based upon sexual orientation.

Of course, just because you fall within one of those protected classes does not mean that you can’t be fired or that you will always be hired. If the employer has a just cause for firing, not hiring, not promoting, or anything else, then that situation would not be covered under Title VII. In order to have a lawsuit based on Title VII, it must be possible to show that the employer was actively discriminating without just cause.

Get the Help You Need
If you feel that you have been unjustly discriminated against at work, you will need to get the help of an experienced employment law attorney. Carla D. Aikens has been successfully helping employees in Michigan and Illinois protect their rights in the workplace for several years. Contact us to schedule a consultation where we can go over your specific situation and help determine whether there was an illegal violation of Title VII.