Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against someone because of:
- Sex (including pregnancy and related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity); or
- National origin.
Title VII also makes it unlawful for an employer to take a negative action, or retaliate, against a person because they:
- Complained about discrimination, whether formally or informally;
- Filed a charge of discrimination with an agency like the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or
- Participated as a witness in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
Title VII also makes it unlawful to use policies or practices that seem neutral but have the effect of discriminating against people because of their race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity), or national origin.
Under Title VII, it is unlawful to discriminate in any aspect of employment, including:
- Hiring and firing;
- Compensation, assignment, or classification of workers;
- Transfer, promotion, layoff, or recall;
- Job advertisements and recruitment;
- Use of employer facilities;
- Training and apprenticeship programs;
- Retirement plans, leave, and benefits; or
- Other terms and conditions of employment.
Under Title VII, employers also cannot:
- Harass an employee because of race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), or national origin;
- Refuse or fail to make reasonable adjustments to workplace policies or practices that allow individual workers to observe their sincerely held religious beliefs;
- Make employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about a person’s abilities, traits, or performance because of their race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), or national origin;
- Deny job opportunities because a person is married to, or associated with, a person of a particular race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), or national origin.
The Attorney General, through ELS, brings lawsuits under Title VII against state and local government employers after the EEOC refers a complaint to the Department of Justice. ELS also can start investigations and bring lawsuits against state and local government employers when there is reason to believe that an employer’s policy or practice discriminates against a group of job applicants or employees based on their race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), or national origin.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA)
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) ensures that servicemembers can return to their civilian jobs after they finish military service obligations. USERRA requires employers to give servicemembers the seniority, status, and rate of pay that they would have if they had remained continuously employed by their civilian employer without a break for military service.
Employers have other obligations under USERRA, too. For example:
- Employers must make reasonable efforts to help returning employees to refresh or upgrade their skills so they can qualify for reemployment;
- Returning servicemembers are entitled to immediate reinstatement of health insurance for themselves and previously covered dependents with no waiting period and no exclusion of preexisting conditions other than those that are military service-related; and
- Employers must reemploy servicemembers who became disabled during military service in a position most closely related to their former position if they can no longer perform it.
USERRA also prohibits:
- Discrimination in hiring, promotion, and retention because of past, present and future military service;
- Discrimination in hiring, reemployment, promotion, job retention or benefits because of military service;
- Retaliation because a person asserted their rights or assisted (including testifying, giving a statement, etc.) in an USERRA investigation or lawsuit, even if the person assisting has no military service connection.
USERRA covers both voluntary and involuntary military service, in peacetime and wartime, and applies to virtually all civilian employers, including the federal government, state and local governments, and private employers, no matter how many people work for that employer.
Under USERRA, the Department of Justice can bring a lawsuit after the U.S. Department of Labor determines that a servicemember’s USERRA rights were violated and refers the complaint to us. The Department of Justice can bring lawsuits under USERRA against private employers as well as state and local government employers.
Executive Order 11246
Executive Order 11246 applies to federal government contractors and federal government-assisted construction contractors and subcontractors who do over $10,000 in federal government business in one year. It prohibits those employers from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity) or national origin.
The Executive Order also requires federal government contractors to take action to ensure equal opportunity in all aspects of employment, including training programs, outreach efforts, and other affirmative steps. Contractors must take action to recruit and advance qualified minorities and women for jobs in which they are underused compared to how many people in those groups are available in the workforce. Contractors should include these efforts into their written personnel policies. Federal government contractors with written affirmative action programs must implement them, keep them on file, and update them yearly. Also, under some circumstances, Executive Order 11246 makes it unlawful for federal contractors and subcontractors from taking negative actions against applicants and employees because they have asked about, discussed, or shared information about their pay or their co-workers’ pay.
Federal government contractors also must take all necessary actions to make sure no one in the workplace tries to intimidate or discriminate against a person for filing a complaint or participating in a lawsuit under the Executive Order.
Executive Order 11246 is administered by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs at the Department of Labor. After the OFCCP sends a matter to our offices, the Department of Justice can a bring a lawsuit in federal court.