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Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Employment Discrimination

Title VII prevents employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of a protected characteristic including: race, color, religion, sex/gender, age, disability, or national origin.

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer 

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Tangible Employment Action

A tangible employment action or TEA is a direct and negative consequence of the employee protesting some form of discrimination.  Some common examples of tangible employment actions include: demotion, reassignment to a less prestigious position, decrease in pay, and decreased benefits associated with a position like 401K, health insurance, or benefits.  An example of a tangible employment case is when an employer fires an employee after she complains that women are routinely denied promotional opportunities for discriminatory reasons.  

Hostile Work Environment

Hostile Work Environment is another theory of liability that focuses on a series of severe or pervasive actions that affect the employees ability to do their job.  To establish a hostile work environment, the employee must prove that unwelcome harassment was severe or pervasive enough to alter the terms and conditions of employment.  For example, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that a black employee who was called racially derogatory names like monkey, found bananas on his vehicle on multiple occasions, and confronted by colleagues armed with weapons while wearing Confederate flags, was enough evidence for the case to make it to trial.

The Equal Pay Act.  Discrimination in the workplace can also exist in pay and benefit disparities. 

The Equal Pay Act provides that, 

"No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to

(i) a seniority system;

(ii) a merit system;

(iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or

(iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex.”

Check out our blog on discriminatory pay for more information on pay discrimination claims here.

Retaliation: Employment Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids an employer from retaliating against an employee because of the employee's opposition to “any practice made an unlawful practice” by Title VII, or the employee's participation in “an investigation,
proceeding, or hearing under [Title VII].

To prove retaliation, the employee must prove that

(1) she engaged in a statutorily protected activity

(2) she suffered an adverse employment action and

(3) there is a causal connection between the two.  


Some examples of protected activity include: reporting discrimination to a supervisor or human resources department; complaining about discrimination on behalf of a co-worker; or filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  


First Steps: If you believe you may be experiencing a hostile work environment, employment discrimination, or retaliation in the work place, the first step is to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity office within 180 days of the last date of discrimination.  


Check out our blog on employment discrimination for more information here.

If you think your employer has discriminated against you, please contact us to discuss your case.

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