Throughout Title VII’s history, Congress has amended and expanded Title VII. Often, the Supreme Court has read such amendments and expansions narrowly, even as it generally reads Title VII broadly or narrowly depending on the case before it. The Court’s approach to Title VII expansions may merely indicate that the Court believes that such statutory alterations should be read only as broadly as necessary to effectuate their purposes. However, regardless of why the Court has interpreted these expansions narrowly, that the Court has done so suggests that Congress ought to consider carefully how it amends or expands Title VII in the future. This brief Essay examines how the Court has interpreted various amendments and expansions of Title VII and suggests that Congress will need to be very careful in how it expands Title VII to cover additional demographic characteristics and protect employees against all instances of discrimination Congress intends to ban. The Court’s interpretations may have implications for the legislation like the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (“ENDA”), which expands Title VII’s coverage to sexual orientation and gender identity. Part I of this Essay discusses how the Court has interpreted Title VII’s motivating factor test, which Congress installed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (“1991 Act”). Part II discusses how the Court has interpreted Title VII’s disparate impact cause of action, also part of the 1991 Act. Part III discusses how the Court has addressed the reasonable accommodation requirement in Title VII religion cases, which Congress installed through its 1972 Amendments to Title VII. Part IV discusses how the Court has interpreted pregnancy discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978,3 which amended Title VII.
Henry L. Chambers, Jr., Reading Amendments and Expansions of Title VII Narrowly, 95 Boston U.L. Rev. 781 (2015).