It could be said that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is the single most import form of legal protection for employees who experience discrimination on the job. The famous law, first ratified in 1964, stands at the helm of a number of legal rules and regulations designed to protect workers by upholding their right to participate in a fair and equal workplace.
From sexual harassment to age bias to equal access to restrooms for transgender employees, Title VII is the go-to legal resource for employees forced to address these and similar issues with their employers.
Sadly, many Title VII violations go unreported or underreported. This is due to several causes and factors, including fear of retaliation. According to recent research, 21 percent of employees reported experiencing retaliation from employers after reporting wrongdoing.
Yet, fear of retaliation is not the only reason that employees sometimes suffer as the result of employment rights violations. Employees may be unaware of the extent of protections and rights provided in Title VII and its amendments and without knowledge of what protections are available many employees fail to get the justice they deserve.
Your Rights Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
Title VII is federal law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace. Specifically Title VII states: “it shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer … to discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”
Laws similar to the the Civil Rights Act, such as Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, have added prohibitions against discrimination based on age and disability. Still other amendments and closely associated laws have emphasized equal pay for female workers and equal employment rights for pregnant workers.
It’s important to note that Title VII forbids discrimination in any aspect of employment. The legislative language includes an exhaustive list of employment practices, including:
- hiring and firing
- job advertising
- job transfers
- promotion and demotion
- retirement plans
- employment leave
- layoffs and recalls
It’s also important to note that the federal law applies to any individual whether the person is an applicant for a position or is currently an employee. Title VII does not apply, however, to companies with less than 15 employees.
Experience a Title VII Rights Violation
Experiencing a Title VII rights violation means that, as an employee of a company with 15 or more employees, your employer has discriminated against you in one or more aspects of employment because of your race, color, national origin, religion or sex.
It may also mean that your employer has entertained a policy or practice that has a discriminatory impact on the workforce. In others words, the policy or practice, though not discriminatory in its initial nature, has the effect of discriminating against employees because of their race, color, national origin, religion or sex. This type of employment rights violations follows a theory of law call disparate impact theory.
Another type of Title VII violation occurs when an employee experiences retaliation as a result of reporting unlawful employment practices noted in Title VII. This means that if an employer decides to demote an employee who has reported racial discrimination by filing a charge with the EEOC or by participating in a company investigation or a discrimination hearing, that employer could be held liable for violations of Title VII.
What to Do When Your Title VII Rights Are Violated
The first step to take when your Title VII rights are violated is to file a charge with the EEOC. Once a charge is filed, the EEOC may decide to represent you in an employment discrimination hearing. If not, the agency will issue a “right-to-sue” notice which allows employees to file suit in court with the help of a qualified employment discrimination attorney.
Even before the charge filing process begins at the EEOC, it’s important to abide by company procedure for logging complaints and contacting appropriate personnel for internal resolution of the matter. In some cases, failure to do so could serve as a defense against your allegations that works in favor of your employer.
It’s also important to use available resources to educate yourself on the particular laws and regulation that may have impact on your case. The EEOC website is an excellent source of information concerning Title VII claims. Also, a number of industry associations and nonprofit organizations offer research, statistics and case summaries online.
Contacting an Employment Discrimination Attorney
One of the most important steps when your employment rights are violated is contacting an attorney that’s right for the job. Selecting an attorney may bring on a certain amount of anxiety for some and rightly so. It can be a truly stressful ordeal if you don’t have the proper tools and tips for finding the best attorney for the job.
Phone directories and Google searches are full of a wide selection of employment discrimination attorneys to choose from. The best way to make a sound selection is to narrow your choices down to just a few and move forward with in-person interviews of each candidate.
When speaking with an employment discrimination attorney for the first time, you’ll want to be prepared with targeted questions that will give you a better picture of what to expect. You’ll want to inquire about fees and payment procedures as well as gain clarity about how often you can expect to meet with your attorney for questions and concerns. It’s also good to identify the main point of contact at the firm.
When Your Employment Rights Are Violated
When your Title VII employment rights are violated, you don’t have to tolerate your employer’s unlawful behavior. Seek the advice of a qualified attorney who can help steer you through the process.