Title VII of the Civil Rights Act - Employment Discrimination
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. prohibits discrimination and retaliation based on certain protected classes. The Act provides, in pertinent part, as follows:
“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer…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” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a).
Employees can prove discrimination either directly (e.g. with expressly stated discriminatory reasons advanced by the employer) or indirectly. Most employees must prove discrimination indirectly, as direct evidence of discrimination is rare.
To prove discrimination under Title VII indirectly, the U.S. Supreme Court held in the McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green decision and clarified in various decisions following that an employee must show that: (1) they are a member of a Title VII protected class; (2) they were qualified for the position sought or held; (3) they were subjected to an adverse action (e.g. not hired, demoted or terminated); and (4) a similarly-situated person outside the protected class was hired instead of the complaining employee, treated differently than the complaining employee, or replaced the complaining employee.
If the employee can establish these four elements, the employer then has the opportunity to advance a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason as to why the employer took the employment action. Thereafter, the employee may show that that employer's stated reason(s) are pretextual (i.e. false assertions or a mask for discrimination).
Note that age and disability are not included in the protected classes under Title VII. This is because, at the federal level, discrimination based on age is prohibited by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and discrimination based on disability is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
For Ohio laws prohibiting discrimination, see the Ohio Civil Rights Act.