Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 introduced the concepts of protected classes and unlawful employment practices to American business. It is unlawful under Title VII for an employer to hire or discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his or her compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, because of an individual’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin. This covers hiring, firing, promotions and all workplace conduct. The statute applies to private sector employers with 15 or more employees and public sector employers at the federal, state, and local level. Title VII prohibits employment decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals on the basis of their protected status.
The courts have ruled that Title VII prohibits employer decisions and policies based solely on an employer’s stereotyped opinion that motherhood, and in certain cases fatherhood, are inapt with serious work. Courts have found the following examples of conduct violates Title VII: having one policy for hiring women with preschool aged children, and another for hiring men with preschool aged children; failing to promote an employee on the assumption that her childcare duties would keep her from being a reliable manager; and requiring men, but not women, to demonstrate disability in order to qualify for childrearing leave.
Title VII created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) with a mandate to promote equal employment opportunity, provide technical assistance and to educate employers. The EEOC is required to study and report on its activities to Congress and the American people. Employers are also required under Title VII to provide a workplace that is free from sexual harassment, which include quid pro quo and a hostile work environment. Any individual who believes that his or her employment rights have been violated may file a charge of discrimination with EEOC. A charge may also be filed by an individual, organization, or agency on behalf of another person in order to protect the aggrieved person's identity.