Title VII, An Explanation

Title VII, An Explanation
By Edward Diaz, ACP
March 2023

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a proper provision entrusted by the United States that prohibits workplace discrimination in virtually every employment circumstance. The policy prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, or national origin. In short, the Title VII provision applies to organizations with 15 or more employees. More specifically, Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants, employees, or former employees based on the aforementioned protected classes. While Title VII generally applies to employers in the private and public sectors with 15 or more employees, state anti-discrimination laws may be more stringent or generous than federal law. For example, state law might apply to employers with fewer than 15 employees. Title VII also prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s association with someone in a protected class.

Title VII protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions (for example, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism) but also other individuals who have sincerely-held religious, ethical, or moral beliefs. That’s the case even if the beliefs are newly adopted, not consistently observed, or different from the commonly followed tenets of the individual’s religion. Also, employers may not consider an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity when making employment-related decisions.

The law is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Other federal laws cover additional protected classes from employment discrimination, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). A Title VII policy is crucial when reviewing the candidates’ applications, interviewing and evaluating applicants, or considering employees for promotions, transfers, or employment-related benefits or programs.

Title VII might have been passed 50 years ago, which one would think would have been long enough to change the American workplace, but the journey is far from over regarding workplace equality. According to figures from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, for every $1 that men make, women earned $0.82 in 2021-2022. Therefore, a significant part of gender-based wage disparity could be attributed to discriminatory hiring and compensation practices.

In 2013, the ABA Task Force on Gender Equity identified various practices to promote gender equity in law firm compensation. The ABA’s recommendations focused on assessing, reporting, and targeting gender disparities that impact compensation by developing formal, transparent processes to drive accountability and change. Although the author agrees that policies and laws are crucial, culture and public engagement are equally important. HR departments, too, have a significant role to play. For example, they should look for equal employment opportunities by hiring, guiding, and promoting the best and brightest candidates who apply. Also, organizations should ensure that managers and supervisors understand the ruling law and policies with comprehensive annual training for managers and employees to create a sustainable and discrimination-free environment.

At the local level, employers must use hard data to make decisions about hiring, compensation, promotions, and work assignments to ensure that implicit bias is not seeping into decision-making processes. In addition, employers should encourage and support employees with a Title VII claim to the EEOC if bias manifests, thus supporting an inclusive, equitable, and safe workplace for all.