Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination by covered employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age in hiring, promoting, firing, setting wages, testing, training, apprenticeship, and all other terms and conditions of employment. Title VII applies to and covers an employer "who has fifteen (15) or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. The Act does not apply to employers with 14 employees or less. 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.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is an independent regulatory body that enforces Title VII. Since its creation in 1964, the EEOC’s power has been expanded to include investigatory authority, creating conciliation programs, filing lawsuits, and conducting voluntary assistance programs. The EEOC also enforces other employment legislation, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 that prohibits employment discrimination against individuals 40 years of age or older; the Equal Pay Act of 1963 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in compensation for substantially similar work under similar conditions; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of disability in both the public and private sector, excluding the federal government; the Civil Rights Act of 1991 that provides for monetary damages in case of intentional discrimination; Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, that prohibits employment discrimination against federal employees with disabilities; Title IX of the Education Act of 1972 that forbade gender discrimination in education programs, including athletics that received federal dollars; and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which made it illegal for employers to exclude pregnancy and childbirth from their sick leave and health benefits plans.

The EEOC also discourages employers from excluding applicants for employment based on conviction or arrest records that may adversely impact certain minority segments of the population. Hence exclusion of applicants based on conviction records is prohibited unless the employer can show business necessity. To establish business necessity, an employer must be able to show that it considered: 1) the severity and age of the offense or offenses, 2) evidence of rehabilitation, and 3) job relatedness.