Many people take for granted their ability to find work and remain employed, without having to worry about their sex, color, race, religion, or national origin. Yet it was just over half a century ago that these rights were made a reality.
Prior to 1964, employers reserved the right to hire or fire, whoever they wanted with impunity. This meant that many women, people of color, non-christians and immigrants, often found themselves either unemployed or working dangerous jobs for disgraceful salaries. Even though this topic is hard to talk about today, many men and women across America are still suffering the same kind of discrimination. If you or a loved one has experienced any form of discrimination by an employer, you are not alone.
Protection Against Discrimination
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is designed to protect workers by granting them, under law, what many consider a god-given right; the right to work. Title VII prohibits any form of discrimination in hiring practices, as well as bullying techniques that would passively encourage a worker to quit their position. Specific acts of discrimination outlawed by Title VII include:
- Discriminatory hiring and firing practices
- Differing compensation based on race, sex, color, or national origin
- Assignment or classification of employees
- Transfer, promotion, layoff, or recall
- Job advertisements
- Discriminatory use of company facilities
- Training and apprenticeship programs
- Fringe benefits
- Pay, retirement plans, and disability leave
- Other terms and conditions of employment
Sexual Orientation Discrimination
April 4, 2017 the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the first time, that all rights granted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act now apply to those of all sexual orientations. This groundbreaking ruling came after many hard fought years by the LGBTQ community. Prior to the Seventh Circuit’s ruling, it was questioned whether the discrimination based on sexual orientation was a form of discrimination based on “sex,” and, therefore, prohibited by Title VII.
In 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) began to hold the position that Title VII does prohibit sexual orientation discrimination. Unfortunately the EEOC’s position was not binding law. While the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling was music to most people’s ears, it is not a federally binding law. In order to see an actual law change, the U.S. Supreme Court must up the issue, or Congress must pass legislation that amends Title VII.
The good news is that many state and local governments have specific laws protecting the employment of those with differing sexual orientations. As it stands, employers cannot safely rely on existing case law to justify sexual-orientation discrimination under Title VII.
Prima Facie Under Title VII
Discrimination is a real and present force even in our modern society. However the burden of proof isn’t always easy to meet. In order to prevent cases based on resentment, that may clog up our judicial system, courts have come up with a four part criteria that workers must meet in order to file suit under Title VII. This is known as prima facie, or “at face value”. Meaning, workers must show they were discriminated against in a way that most people would be able to see at face value. The four points of qualification are:
- The employee is part of a protected class as outlined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This includes race, sex, color, national origin or religion.
- The employee was qualified to be hired for the position in question.
- The employee was rejected for the position or promotion, presumably for belonging to a protected class.
- An employee outside of the protected class was selected for the position, or the employer delayed hire while searching for other candidates outside the protected class.
Once a worker has met these four criteria an employer must meet a burden of proof in an attempt to prove that the employee was not discriminated against. Examples of an employers burden of proof include showing that:
- An employee was not hired because he or she was not capable of doing the job.
- An employee was fired because of poor performance rather than belonging to a protected class.
- A promotion was granted to another because they were more qualified, rather than that they were a part of a non protected class.
If a Title VII case makes it to this point, the worker is then allowed a rebuttal where they are given the chance to show evidence that proves discrimination was at play. Ultimately it is the worker who carries the final burden of proof, as an employer must simply show any motive other than discrimination for their hiring, promotion, or firing decisions.
However, thousands of men and women who have suffered workplace discrimination have collected millions in settlements after meeting this burden. If you or someone you love has experience discrimination on the job site, do not keep quiet; it is your civil right to work for a living.
Title VII Lawsuit In Review
If you or a loved one has been discriminated against by a current or past employer, you are not alone. Contact the lawyers at Johnson // Becker to guide you in this difficult process.
We offer a Free Case Evaluation. Please contact us using the form below or by calling us at (800) 279-6386. We would be honored to speak with you and respond promptly to every inquiry we receive.