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Understanding Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Protected Classes

On Behalf of | May 8, 2019 | Firm News |


If you run a company, hiring and firing employees will be a necessity. Florida is an at-will employment state, which means you have the right to terminate an employee for no reason. However, you are prohibited from firing someone solely because they are part of a protected class. Protected classes are covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Human Resources departments have a hard job of following the needs of a company while ensuring that its employees’ rights are also protected.

If you have questions on Title VII claims or want to ensure your human resources policies and procedures follow all federal and state laws, you need to speak with a West Palm Beach labor and employment law attorney. At Pincus & Currier LLP, we assist small and medium-sized businesses to ensure their policies and procedures align with all applicable laws. We can also assist with training employees and supervisors on important topics like sexual harassment, workplace harassment, discrimination, and more.

Protected Classes Under Title VII

When the Civil Rights Act of 1964, often referred to as Title VII, was first enacted, it included five protected classes: color, race, religion, national origin, and sex. There have been amendments adding classes for disabilities, age discrimination and pregnancy as well as retaliation. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees because the employee falls into these protected classes.

Rules Under Title VII

To prevent a claim for Title VII violations, there are some basic guidelines on what you can and should not do when it comes to hiring, promoting, and terminating employees. To start, you are prohibited from refusing to hire or denying training to someone in a protected class due to their membership in said class.  You cannot segregate them or force someone else to segregate them either.  It is against the law to treat an employee differently because of their inclusion in the protected class — hiring, termination, promotions, benefits, layoffs, job duties, and more.

On the flip side, the law does allow you to hire someone based on their membership in a protected class, provided it relates to a bona fide qualification of the job. Religion, sex, and national origin would apply here. For example, if an institution is supported or controlled by a religion, then it’s conceivable that religion would be a required qualification for employment there. However, you have to be very cautious in that you cannot discriminate against someone else in a protected class due to their membership in that class.

The basics are straightforward, but individual situations can prove to be far more complicated, which is why it is important to meet with a knowledgeable attorney who can help.

Possible Penalties for Violating

There can be serious consequences for Title VII violations, including a lawsuit, monetary penalties, and court-ordered payments of lost earnings, expenses, and even punitive damages in some cases.

Contact a Florida Employment and Labor Law Lawyer

If you need assistance with Title VII claims or any other aspect of employment and labor law in Florida, contact the skilled West Palm Beach labor and employment lawyers at Pincus & Currier, LLP, today to schedule a consultation.