Understanding Title VII in the Workplace

Title VII, the seventh amendment of the Civil Rights Act 1964, protects five major classes from discrimination by employers. Those protected classes are based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Reprisal, sexual orientation and people with physical or mental disabilities also have protections. Employers will 15 or more workers must comply with Title VII.

All states, besides Montana, have adopted an at-will employment policy, which states employers can fire an employee at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. However, this often masks discrimination.

Title VII discriminations go beyond the firing process. It also applies to hiring, training, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs and benefits.

The consequences of wrongfully firing an employee who fits Title VII qualifications could lead to a lawsuit, court fees, attorney fees, payment for wages lost, punitive damages and additional monetary penalties.

HR employees should protect employees from being subject to Title VII discrimination. They should know the protected classes, which of their employees are protected and how the laws affect the hiring and firing processes.

Title VII Guidelines

During the hiring, promoting and firing process, there are certain guidelines for what employers can and can’t do:


  • Fire based on religion, sex or national origin IF it’s a bona fide qualification.
    • Bona Fide: Implies good faith and sincerity of intention. In other words, it’s reasonably necessary to achieve the normal operation of a business.


  • Refuse to hire, segregate, force someone else to segregate or deny training to people of protected classes just because they are a member of one of those classes.
  • Discriminate in any aspect, or during any process of employment.

About Forester Haynie

If you or someone you know has experienced violation of the Title VII Act by an employer, contact Forester Haynie for a free consultation.

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