What is Title VII?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination and harassment in employment based on sex, race, color, national origin, or religion.

Title VII applies to most employers who have at least 15 employees.

Discrimination in violation of Title VII is most commonly linked a failure to hire, a failure to promote, or termination of employment. Issues may also arise in relation to compensation received by employees in comparison to similarly qualified employees who are of a different race, gender, etc.

Title VII only applies if the discrimination or harassment is “because of (race, sex, etc.).” Therefore, the employee must prove that the employer’s actions were discriminatory for that reason.

Damages available under Title VII include lost earnings and other resulting losses. Title VII also permits for an award of punitive damages if the acts are deemed to be with malice or reckless indifference. The maximum amount of damages available is based on the size of the employer (number of employees).

Title VII allows for payment of attorney’s fees to an employee who prevails at trial. As a result, this creates an incentive for an employer to try to resolve the claim as soon as possible. An employer’s failure to do so could result in it not only being responsible for its own attorney’s fees, but also the employee’s attorney’s fees.

To pursue a claim under Title VII, it is necessary to file a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This document must be filed within 180 days of the last date on which the employee was subjected to either discrimination or harassment. If the Charge of Discrimination is not filed within this period of time, the employee waives his or her right to pursue any such claim. A lawsuit cannot be filed until after the E.E.O.C. has made a determination regarding whether there is merit to the employee’s claim. Once the E.E.O.C. makes a determination as to whether, based on its investigation of the matter, there is cause, they will issue a Notice of Right to Sue. This will identify the E.E.O.C.’s findings and inform the employee of his or her right to file a lawsuit. Upon receipt of the Notice of Right to Sue, the employee has 90 days to file a lawsuit. This lawsuit can be filed in either state or federal court, but most such lawsuits are filed in federal court. A lawsuit under Title VII can be (and typically is) tried before a jury.