Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Congress enacted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 19641 twenty-five years ago. Through Title VII Congress sought to remove artificial barriers that limited employment opportunities for minorities. The statute is not limited, however, to prohibiting race discrimination. Title VII directly confronts the problem of discrimination in the workplace by prohibiting employment decisions based on the race, color, religion, sex, or national origin of the employee or applicant. The Act prohibits an employer from favoring one group of employees over another due to irrelevant characteristics and classifications.

Title VII litigation occupies a significant portion of the federal docket. The lack of clarity in the terms of the statute and the legislative history has forced courts to define the parameters of Title VII with little direction from Congress. For example, courts first had to define the elements that constitute a violation of Title VII. Section 703(a)(1)clearly contemplates intentional discrimination, or disparate treatment,as a basis for liability.' The language of section 703(a)(2), however, does not contain any explicit requirement of intent.' Thus, whether plaintiffs had to prove intentional discrimination to state a claim under Title VII remained unclear. The Supreme Court in Griggs v. Duke Power Co. resolved the controversy by finding that a plaintiff states a claim under section 703(a)(2) by showing that a facially neutral employment practice disproportionately disqualifies a protected class from employment.Therefore, discriminatory consequences as well as motivation might in-validate an employment practice.