Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits race, color, religion, sex, and national origin discrimination in the workplace. It also prohibits discrimination against those who bring Title VII complaints.
In order to make a prima facie case for discrimination under Title VII, an individual must show:
- That the complainant belonged to a protected class (age, sex, etc.);
- That the complainant was doing satisfactory work at the time of the alleged discrimination;
- That the complainant was subject to adverse employment action;
- That the complainant was treated more harshly than others not in a protected class;
If a complainant is able to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden switches to the employer to prove that s/he had a legitimate, non-discriminatory purpose for taking the adverse employment action.
If an employer makes the above showing, the burden shifts back to the complainant to show that the alleged non-discriminatory purpose is mere pretext for discrimination.
Because attorney fees are awarded to successful plaintiffs, there is much litigation in this field.
Title VII litigation concerns reasonable belief doctrine.
Federal courts of appeals have created an exception to this law for ministerial duties (such as chaplain duties) in religious institutions. Known as the "ministerial exception," this allows religious institutions to discriminate based on gender in order to adhere to religious doctrine. Courts assume that the Free Exercise Clause prevents applying Title VII to jobs such as chaplain.
The U.S. Supreme Court has never addressed this issue of a "ministerial exception."