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Similarities and differences in Title VII and Section 1981

Florida employees who wish to file a legal claim against an employer for racial discrimination may do so under 42 U.S.C. 1981 or Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. However, it is important to understand the differences in these two laws so that a legal claim is pursued properly. For example, Title VII deals with multiple protected classes while Section 1981 only prohibits racial and ethnic discrimination.

Another difference in the two is that Section 1981 only prohibits intentional discrimination. Title VII protects against intentional discrimination as well, but it also prohibits disparate impact discrimination. This is a type of discrimination that is not intentional but has the same effect on a protected class.

In order to file a legal claim using Title VII, it is first necessary to have filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The statute of limitations for the EEOC is 180 or 300 days, depending on various factors. Section 1981 does not require an EEOC filing and has a statute of limitations of four years. Finally, Section 1981 does not cap damages while Title VII caps punitive and compensatory damages.

People who believe they are facing racial discrimination at work might want to seek legal assistance. An employer may try to argue that the treatment of an employee is based on the employee's performance. An attorney might be able to discuss how best to document the situation and the steps to take in filing a legal claim. For example, positive feedback and strong performance reviews may be useful in disputing an employer's claim about performance, and documenting instances of discrimination can help show a pattern.

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