Title VII – United States

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law prohibiting discrimination against employees and applicants based on: 

  • Race 
  • Color 
  • Religion 
  • Sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity and pregnancy)  
  • National origin  

Title VII specifically prohibits discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment, including hiring, compensation, employment benefits, advancement, training, assignments, and termination of employment. 

Harassment and retaliation are also prohibited under Title VII. For more information, see our pages on harassment and bullying, and victimization/retaliation

Title VII is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

What can I do if I am discriminated against?

EEOC Complaint

If your employer discriminates against you, you can file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). An individual, organization or agency can also file a charge on behalf of another person as a “John Doe” or “Jane Doe” in order to protect the aggrieved person’s identity. It is important to file the complaint as swiftly as possible: for most EEOC charges, this must happen within either 180 or 300 days. (Please note: most states and some cities have bodies similar to the EEOC which may provide alternative ways to bring a claim. Their statutes of limitation may differ from the federal one.) 

The EEOC will investigate the complaint.  If they think discrimination has occurred, they will attempt conciliation with the employer to work out a practical remedy. 

If that fails, the EEOC may choose whether to bring suit itself in federal court, or to issue the employee with a “right to sue” letter. 

Private Lawsuit

If the EEOC chooses not to sue on your behalf, it will issue a “right to sue” letter and you can file your own suit within 90 days.   

What remedies are available if I’ve been discriminated against?

The main idea of legal remedies for discrimination is to make the individual “whole” again – that is, return them to the condition they would have been in but for the discrimination. 

The relief available for employment discrimination can include the following: 

  • Back pay (that is, pay from the time you were discriminated against up to the present) 
  • Reinstatement in your old job 
  • Front pay (that is, pay from now to some point in the future, often calculated to be when you could reasonably be expected to get another comparable job) 

Remedies may also include payment of attorney’s fees, expert witness fees and court costs. 

Under most federal employment laws, compensatory and punitive damages may also be available: 

  • Compensatory damages: These try to approximate what the discrimination has cost you, both financially and in pain and suffering. 
  • Punitive damages: These are extra amounts an employer must pay you, designed to deter them from discriminating again. They are rare, but are awarded if the employer’s misconduct is particularly persistent or malicious. 

If you think you may have suffered discrimination at work, prompt legal advice is a good idea. For a confidential discussion of your legal options, contact us on +1 (212) 433-3456, or fill out our contact form

Civil Rights Act - 56th anniversary (2 June 2020)Civil Rights Act – 56th anniversary (2 June 2020)