In 1964, the same year that the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to the civil rights movement, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The new law prohibited discrimination in a range of areas, including education, government services, and private education. One section, referred to as Title VII, prohibited employment discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion and national origin. Title VII also established the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to respond to claims.
Today, Title VII forbids any discriminatory practices in any aspect of employment, including:
- Hiring and firing
- Pay and retirement benefits
- Promotion and salary increases
- Layoffs and recalls
It applies to employers with 15 employees or more.
The Workplace Today
Although 54 years have passed since the enactment of Title VII and no one would openly advertise for “male applicants” or “whites only,” many U.S. employees are still being harassed, made fun of or experiencing a hostile work environment on the basis of their sex, race, color, religion and national origin.
What are your rights if it happens to you? What can you do if your supervisor promotes your male colleague who is less qualified for the position, and you overhear him saying that the company “needed a senior manager who wasn’t going to go on pregnancy leave someday?”
If you believe that you have been discriminated against, you have the right to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The Role of the EEOC
If you decide to file a discrimination claim with the EEOC, you must do so within 180 calendar days from the date that the incident occurred. If local or state agencies enforce a law that prohibits workplace discrimination on the same basis, the deadline is 300 calendar days.
After your complaint is filed, the EEOC will contact your employer to advise them of the fact and begin an investigation. (Under Title VII, your boss is prohibited from retaliating against you for filing a charge of discrimination.)
The EEOC may attempt to resolve your complaint in a number of different ways, including referring you and your employer to a mediator. If both sides cannot reach a settlement and your employer is a private one, the EEOC may file a charge in federal court or even dismiss your charge entirely. If the latter event occurs, the EEOC will send you a notice advising you of your right to sue your employer. This notice, known as a “right-to-sue” letter, may even be requested when the investigation is in progress.
Contact a Title VII Discrimination Attorney
If an employee files a discrimination case against their employer and prevails, their recovery may include:
- Both front and back pay
- Punitive damages
- Compensatory damages for emotional distress
- Attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in pursuing the claim
Discrimination and retaliation in the workplace are illegal, but they’re not always easy to fight. To obtain the compensation and justice you deserve, you need to hire an employee rights attorney with experience in pursuing Title VII claims.
DeWitt Law is committed to fighting for client rights in workplace discrimination claims in and out of the courtroom. We understand that a hostile and intolerable work environment can harm both your personal and professional life, which is why we will strive for a resolution that compensates you for what you have suffered and allows you to move forward with your life and your chosen career path. If we can be of assistance to you, please contact DeWitt Law.