The Foundation of Anti-Discrimination Laws
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their inclusion in a protected class. This landmark legislation is the foundation for anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws in the workplace. Title VII generally applies to businesses and organizations that employ 15 or more workers, labor unions, employment agencies and local, state and federal governments.
Since the law was enacted, more than 50 years ago, amendments have expanded the reach of the Civil Rights Act to additional protected classes. For example, genetic information is a new class that has recently been added to the protected classes of race, gender, pregnancy, national origin, religion, disability and age. An employer who has a connection to a protected class, such as through marriage or membership in an organization, may also be protected under the Act. The impression of being in a class may also be enough to trigger protection.
Discriminatory Employment Decisions
A business is not permitted to consider a worker’s inclusion in a class when it makes such employment-related decisions as:
- Recruitment and hiring
- Firing or layoff
- Promotion or transfer
- Shifts or assignments
- Benefits package
An employer may be considered in violation of the Civil Rights Act for policies that have no legitimate business purpose and cause a discriminatory result. For instance, requiring workers to wear a skirt as their only uniform option would tend to discriminate against men. Similarly, designating the auto repair department as the only pathway to management promotion would tend to discriminate against women.
The law mandates that businesses make reasonable accommodations for their employees who are part of a protected class. A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment to the job duties, work schedule, working environment, uniform or other aspect of the job to accommodate a recruit’s or a worker’s disability, gender, religion, race or other protected class.
However, an employer need not provide an accommodation that would cause an undue hardship, which is an accommodation that is too difficult or expensive. Undue hardship is determined in light of a business’s needs, size, function, safety considerations and financial resources.
Prohibition Against Harassment Under the Civil Rights Act
Harassment on the basis of inclusion in a protected class is considered a form of discrimination and is prohibited by the Civil Rights Act. A business is responsible for maintaining a harassment-free workplace and for investigating and responding to legitimate grievances made by its employees.
A business should develop clear anti-harassment policies and include language in its handbook so all employees are informed of intolerable conduct and of the process for reporting harassment.
Learn About Rights and Obligations Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Gunterfirm counsels businesses about compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and litigates matters related to Civil Rights Act violations. Call our Naples/ Fort Myers employment and labor law attorney at 239.334.7017 or contact our firm online to learn more about this landmark statute at your free initial consultation.