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Consider Title VII red flags

You probably know that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to discrimination in the workplace. Yet even HR professionals can be fuzzy about the law's details. To get comfortable with Title VII, review the basics.

Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment

Title VII makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, pregnancy or sex.

More specifically, the law bans discrimination in any aspect of employment, including:

  • Recruiting, hiring, firing, layoff or recall after layoff
  • Wages and benefits
  • Promotion, transfer and discharge
  • Classification of employees
  • Training, testing and performance measurements
  • Use of company facilities
  • Training and apprenticeship programs
  • Working conditions

Since passage of Title VII in 1964, the law's protections have extended to people of all sexual orientations, including transgender employees. Federal laws also ban workplace discrimination based on disability, genetic information, family medical history and age.

Title VII applies broadly

Title VII applies to organizations in any sector โ€” for-profit, nonprofit and governmental โ€” with 15 or more employees. In addition, your city or state might have laws prohibiting employment discrimination for organizations of any size.

Title VII allows employees to file claims of discrimination

Employees may file complaints under Title VII with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice may investigate, prosecute and enforce actions against state and local governments based on an apparent pattern or practice of employment discrimination.

Consider common examples of workplace discrimination

Examples of potentially unlawful practices include:

  • Making racially-based slurs, jokes or comments
  • Hiring only from sources that recruit workers of primarily the same race or ethnic group
  • Testing applicants for skills that aren't directly related to job performance
  • Physically isolating employees from coworkers, customers or clients based on race or ethnicity
  • Coding job applications by race

Take steps to ensure compliance with Title VII

To get started:

  • Work with the board to make sure your HR policies reflect the letter and spirit of the law (including avoidance of practices that could have the unintentional effect of discriminating based on race, color, national origin, religion or sex)
  • Provide equal pay to male and female employees who perform the same work
  • Respond promptly and consistently to discrimination complaints
  • Ensure that employees aren't punished or retaliated against for making complaints
  • Provide reasonable accommodations based on Title VII protections, such as time off to observe a religious holiday
  • Display a poster that describes the federal employment discrimination laws (available here)
  • Contact your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Small Business Liaison with any Title VII compliance questions

Also keep the potential benefits of Title VII compliance in mind โ€” increased morale, a more diverse workplace and reduced legal expenses. Preventing discrimination benefits everyone.

This article draws on the expertise of Grace Davies, a Minneapolis-based attorney with special interest in product liability, medical malpractice and employment discrimination.



MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.



U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: "EEO is the Law" poster

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Equal employment opportunity is the law (2009)

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Small business liaisons

Society for Human Resource Management: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

U.S. Department of Justice: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

U.S. Department of Justice: Laws enforced by the Employment Litigation Section (2015)



Writer and editor fascinated by knowledge management, behavior change and technology for nonprofits