Workers should know that discrimination in the workplace is wrong and unlawful. Employees have rights that protect them from such misconduct, and this includes the right to take legal action against a company or supervisor that discriminated against them.
However, the legal process of pursuing a discrimination claim is more complicated than it may seem. For instance, depending on various details of a situation, parties may either file a Section 1981 lawsuit or a Title VII claim.
Differences between the claims
Both Section 1981 and Title VII protect employees against discrimination at work. However, there are several differences between the laws that affect which type of a case a person pursues. To determine which may best suit your situation, consider the following questions:
- Was the discrimination intentional?If not, there may be no violation of Section 1981, as it does not protect employees against unintentional discrimination. By contrast, Title VII protects against disparate impact, which includes practices that are not intended to be discriminatory but ultimately prove to be.
- Have you filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)? If you wish to pursue a claim under Title VII, you must first file a complaint with the EEOC. Filing a case under Section 1981 does not require this step.
- When did the discriminatory act or practice occur? There are statutes of limitations, or deadlines, for filing a claim under both Section 1981 and Title VII. Section 1981 has a longer period, giving parties four years after a violation to file a claim.
- What was the basis for discrimination? Title VII protects against discrimination based on race, national origin, color, sex and religion. Section 1981 only protects against race or ethnicity-based discrimination.
These are just some of the differences between two laws that, on the surface, seem very similar.
Understanding these nuances
There is no room for discrimination in the workplace. However, pursuing a discrimination claim in court or with an administrative agency like the EEOC is typically not as straightforward as proving that the misconduct occurred. There are several requirements necessary to prevail on a claim of discrimination, and whether a case is successful will depend on establishing these components.
Thankfully, individuals are not responsible for knowing these legal intricacies; victims of discrimination can work with an experienced attorney to build and pursue a case to recover the damages they deserve.