Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

How much regulation is necessary between the employer and the employee? Laws and regulations are necessary to keep order and stability in the workplace and in society. We do not want the government telling companies how to run their business or how to treat their employees. We complain about too much governmental control, yet we want the protection that these laws and rules provide. Some forms of regulation are necessary between employer and employee to insure that the employee has equal footing with the employer.

Any employer with fifteen or more employees falls under the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. There have been many additions and revisions of this law including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law prohibits and employer from discriminating on the basis of "race, color, gender, national origin or religion" (Bennet-Alexander D. , 2001 p. 62). The racial unrest and civil disobedience of the early sixties was an important driver of the debate and eventual passage of Title VII in 1964.

There were existing laws addressing the separation of blacks and whites as Congress was trying to move away from the 99-year old post Civil War history Discrimination was seen in every facet of life including housing, schools, recreational facilities, hospitals, restaurants, parks and public transportation (Bennet-Alexander, D. 2001). Prior to the passage of this law, women and minorities had very little legal recourse when it came to job discrimination. Employer's decisions regarding promotion, hiring and firing of employees went unchallenged.

Since the passage of Title VII, the law has been amended and strengthened several times including the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The amendment in 1991, gave employees the right to seek compensatory and punitive damages through a jury trial when their rights were violated. Title VII applies to all private and public (state and federal) employers. It covers all levels of employees managerial or wage employees. In 1991, United States employees working for American employers outside the US were also covered under the law.

Non-US citizens are covered while working in the United States. There are certain exceptions to Title VII, but they are limited. A business that is on or around a Native American Indian reservation can give "preferential treatment to Native Americans" (Bennet-Alexander, D. 2001 p. 69). Religious organizations are also except from Title VII while performing their activities. For example, a Jewish rabbi could not sue a Catholic institution for religious discrimination for not hiring him or her.

To avoid potential Title VII violations, a company much practice proper relationships between the employee and the employer. One of the first steps in building human resources for a business is through the recruitment process. The employer must insure that the application, interview and testing process does not violate the provisions in Title VII. When advertising, the employer should be careful not to include gender specific language that might be perceived as discriminatory.

Policies such nepotism or referrals from within the company must be free from any perception of discrimination towards those protected parties in Title VII. The interview process, background check on applicants and information gathering can also be areas where employers can violate an applicants civil rights. During the interview or application process, the employer cannot ask certain questions that would violate the law. Questions that relate to a disability, health issue or compensation history are issues protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Questions about sex, marital status, age and nationality are not prohibited, but they need to be related to the position for which the applicant is applying. If an employer follows the provisions provided by the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures, they are less likely to be charged with any form of discrimination. A detailed job analysis and specific job description of each job to be filled is one of the best ways to avoid a claim of discrimination in the application and interview process.

Employers should also ensure that their advertising and recruitment procedures are seeking a diverse applicant pool (Bennet-Alexander, D. 2001). Employers must be clear and specific about whom they are looking for to fill a specific job. To avoid violations in the workplace, employers must insure that there is a top down message from management that discrimination of any type is not tolerated. Issues concerning race and cultural differences must be handled fairly and with sensitivity. The worst thing an employer can do is ignore a problem.

Diversity training is common with many companies in today's world. It helps employees and employers follow the law and provides for a better working environment. When it comes to gender discrimination, it is hard to believe that this still occurs in the workplace today. Almost half of the workforce is female, yet research shows that working women earn 74 cents for every dollar men earn. This gap is even larger when it comparing working black women to working men. Top managers in Fortune 500 companies are primarily white males.

Research shows that professional women holding positions in human resources, sales or public relations are not often considered when companies are deciding on higher executive level positions. This phenomenon is known as the glass ceiling effect. In 1991 a commission was established to analyze the barriers that keep women from advancing to higher positions. This commission determined that many of the positions women hold are not providing the experience management is looking for when they are filling upper level positions.

The goal of managers and business owners should be to have policies that provide for the growth and productivity of every employee. Decisions in the workplace regarding employees should be made on that individual's ability to perform the job, not the fact that the employee is a man, woman, short, tall, black or brown. Discrimination in the workplace not only is illegal, but causes loss of morale, employee turnover and expensive lawsuits that hurt the company's reputation. Management needs to send messages through on going training and demonstration, that discrimination of any kind is not tolerated.

Polices are no good to anyone if they are not followed or enforced. A good open door policy and open lines of communication regarding these issues can resolve a problem before it becomes a legal issue. Companies had to change their recruiting, hiring, firing and promotion practices since the Civil Rights Act came into being. Discriminating against an individual because of age, disability, race or sex is illegal. Management has no choice but to abide by these laws and make reasonable accommodations to insure that all employees and potential applicants have equal opportunity in the workplace.

It is hard to believe that after thirty years business still finds themselves in lawsuits regarding these Title VII violations. Many employees entering the workforce today would expect these regulations to be followed, yet violations still occur. Whether these are intentional or unintentional, the violation of the law has to be addressed. This means that managers of companies need to be educated about their limitations within the law. If it seems wrong, it probably is. When in doubt, get an expert involved before it becomes a legal battle.