Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII is a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination in virtually every employment circumstance on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, or national origin. In general, Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees. The purpose of Title VII's protections is to "level the playing field" by forcing employers to consider only objective, job-related criteria in making employment decisions. The above classes of individuals are considered "protected" under Title VII because of the history of unequal treatment which has been identified in each class. Title VII must be considered when reviewing applications or resumes (i.e., by not eliminating candidates on the basis of a "foreign" last name), when interviewing candidates (i.e., by asking only job-related questions), when testing job applicants (i.e., by treating all candidates the same and ensuring that tests are not unfairly weighted against any group of people), and when considering employees for promotions, transfers, or any other employment-related benefit or condition.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended Title VII to provide that pregnant women are treated the same as other employees who are disabled. The employer's policies for taking leave, health benefits during leaves, and reinstatement after leave applies equally to pregnant women and other employees. See also the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Penalties for non-compliance: For intentional discrimination, employees may seek a jury trial, with compensatory and punitive damages up to the maximum limitations established by the Civil Rights Act of 1991 according the employer's number of employees: 15-100 employees, a maximum of $50,000; for 101-200 employees, a maximum of $100,000; for 201-500 employees, a maximum of $200,000; and for over 500 employees, a maximum of $300,000. Remedies of back pay, reinstatement, and retroactive seniority are available for all types of discrimination, whether intentional or disparate impact.

[Editor's Note: The United States Supreme Court held in Jones v. R.R. Donnelly & Sons ​that a four-year federal statute of limitations applies in cases of race discrimination brought under 42 U.S.C. §1981. Prior to the ruling, state law statutes of limitation applied in most states, with a time frame ranging from one year and up. This decision will end the differences under most state laws and provide plaintiffs with more time to file a claim than what was previously provided under state statutes of limitations.]​​



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