The same year that Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. received the Noble Peace Prize for his civil rights efforts, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted; it also established the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that enforces these laws for all U.S. workers. Even though it's the 21st century, some people at work aren't cool, especially when they make fun of a person because of her race or sex. Employers that allow these and other discriminatory practices to continue in the workplace are violating federal law.
Race, Color or National Origin
If an organization doesn't hire someone because of her race, skin color or national origin, it is discriminating against her. This also applies to the organization if they fire her for the same reasons. For example, if an organization refuses to hire a person with national origins in a country outside the U.S., such as Iraq or Afghanistan, even if she is qualified for the job and can work in the U.S., the organization is in violation of anti-discrimination laws set forth under the Civil Rights Act.
Every person is guaranteed the right to religious freedom under the first amendment to the Constitution of the U.S. As a U.S. citizen, you have a right to speak your mind and practice your religion of choice. A company or organization that refuses to hire you because of your religious choice or beliefs is violating your civil rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This law applies to all employers, employment agencies and all labor organizations such as unions.
Sex, Pregnancy, Childbirth or Disability
Discrimination against you at work because of your sex, gender, pregnancy or childbirth is also illegal under these laws. Women affected by pregnancy or childbirth must receive the same treatment as all other employees. A person with a physical disability cannot be treated differently because of his disability or the organization that does so can be challenged under these civil rights laws.
Compensation, Terms and Conditions
An organization cannot treat employees differently because of their race, sex, color, religion, disability or country of origin. The laws specifically state that it is unlawful ”to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." It's also illegal to separate, limit or classify employees in a way that affects their status as an employee because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
Discrimination by Retaliation
An employer that fires an employee because she made a charge of discrimination to the EEOC is violating federal laws. The civil rights laws make it illegal to treat an employee differently from others or discharge her because she made a complaint against the employer under Title VII laws. If the EEOC chooses to pursue a case against the employer, or provides the go-ahead for the employee to sue in court, the employer could be forced to pay back salary and personal damages to the affected employee. This applies to all acts of discrimination adjudicated in a court of law in favor of the employee.
While an employer might not be directly guilty of discriminatory hiring and firing practices, if it allows your co-workers to harass others protected by the civil rights laws, by its lack of action against these harassing employees, it is promoting a hostile work environment and discrimination indirectly. Essentially your employer is condoning this behavior by not taking steps to stop it. Because of this position, an employer can be brought up on charges under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- National Archives: Teaching With Documents -- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- NobelPrize.org: The Nobel Peace Prize 1964 Martin Luther King Jr.
- Virginia Commonwealth University: The Constitution
- FCC: Understanding Workplace Harassment
As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.