Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employers from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Title VII overlaps with both Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (barring discrimination on the basis of sex) and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (barring discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin).
Title VI and Title IX are triggered when an institution receives federal funding. Title VII protects employees, regardless of whether their employer receives federal funding or not. Another key difference is that Title VII uniquely covers discrimination on the basis of religion, which is not covered by either Title VI or Title IX.
Title VII cases frequently arise in the academic context over tenure disputes, where a university department discriminates against junior professors on the basis of sex, color, religion, or national origin.
But you do not have to be a professor. To the extent you are an employee, as staff or even as a student employed as a teaching assistant or research assistant, you are also protected by Title VII. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also interpreted Title VII to protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. In addition, an amendment in 1978 added protection against discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.
Under Title VII, an employer cannot refuse to hire a job applicant or terminate a current employee based on the factors listed above. Title VII also bars retaliation.
If you believe you have been discriminated against as an employee, you have 180 days to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Unlike claims brought under Title IX or Title VI, you must start with he EEOC. In some cases, the Office for Civil Rights will handle a Title VII case, but usually only in the context of other claims exclusively within their jurisdictions.
Do not wait! To bring a claim, you have to act within 180 days of the last time you were discriminated against (but you may have up to 300 days if state or local anti-discriminatory laws give you strengthened protections). You may also have remedies with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and similar agencies in other states.
Once the EEOC concludes its investigation, you can file a federal lawsuit within 90 days, and you can also ask the EEOC for the right to sue before they complete their investigation.