Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of sex (including pregnancy), race, color, national origin, and religion. The statute applies to private sector employers with 15 or more employees and public sector employers at the federal, state, and local level. Title VII prohibits employment decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals on the basis of their protected status.

Courts have ruled that Title VII prohibits employer decisions and policies based purely on an employer’s stereotyped impression that motherhood, and in certain cases "involved" fatherhood, are incompatible with serious work. Courts have found, for example, that the following conduct violates Title VII: having one policy for hiring men with preschool aged children, and another for hiring women with preschool aged children; failing to promote an employee on the assumption that her childcare duties would keep her from being a reliable manager; providing service credits to employees on disability leave, but not to those on pregnancy-related leave; and requiring men, but not women, to demonstrate disability in order to qualify for childrearing leave.

Title VII does not, however, directly guarantee a more flexible workplace. While it ensures that all employees have an equal opportunity within the existing structure, it does not require an employer to make structural changes to promote flexibility. For example, an employer is not required under Title VII to provide paid childrearing leave, but if it does, it must provide such leave to men and women alike. And while an employer does not have to provide benefits to part-time employees, under Title VII, the employer could not provide benefits to some part-timers while excluding others on the basis of sex.

Some advocates argue that using Title VII as a tool in combating "caregiving discrimination" will advance workplace flexibility because the fear of potential litigation will cause employers to re-examine their policies to provide more flexible work options.

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