Title VII: Protected Categories

1. Protected Categories

Title VII generally prohibits covered employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. More specifically, Title VII makes it an unlawful employment practice for a covered employer:

  • To fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of the individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
  • To limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
  • To discriminate against any individual because of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in admission to, or employment in, any program established to provide apprenticeship or other training;
  • To discriminate (as in, retaliate) against any individual because he has opposed any practice that was made an unlawful employment practice by Title VII (the "Opposition Clause"), or because he has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this Title (the "Participation Clause");
  • To print or publish or cause to be printed or published any notice or advertisement relating to employment indicating any preference, limitation, specification, or discrimination, based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, except that such a notice or advertisement may indicate a preference, limitation, specification, or discrimination based on religion, sex, or national origin when religion, sex, or national origin in a bona fide occupational qualification for employment.

Title VII also prohibits discrimination against an individual because of his or her association with another individual of a particular race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Nevertheless, covered employers are still allowed to discriminate on the basis or religion, sex, or national origin (but not color or race) "in those certain instances where religion, sex, or national origin is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise." This defense is commonly referred to as the BFOQ defense.