The recent furor over “American Idol” has brought attention from Missouri fans. Ten former contestants, all African American men, have filed a joint civil action against the show after having been disqualified on the basis of their arrest, not conviction, records. The men have evidence that several non-black contestants who had arrest records were not disqualified. If this is true, “American Idol” producers would be in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The show’s production company, 19 Entertainment, argues that several black people have won the contest in the past. They also claim that none of the disqualified contestants were employed by “American Idol,” and therefore Title VII, which only protects employees, does not apply. However, documents pertaining to one of the ten have been found. These include pay stubs and an I-9 employment form, consistently referring to the man as an “employee.” The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has confirmed that all of the men have the legal right to sue 19 Entertainment.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from workplace discrimination due to race and skin color, along with national origin, religion and gender. In some instances, employers may not be aware that they are practicing discrimination. If this is the case, they must be informed that they are violating the law.

Discrimination can be difficult to prove. Individuals who believe that they have been discriminated against may look for systematic patterns in the workplace. For instance, an employer might consistently promote white employees while non-whites performing at the same level of quality are not promoted. It is less common to find actual documentation confirming discrimination claims.

Source: ABC News, “‘American Idol’ Discrimination Suit Moves Forward“, Luchina Fisher, September 23, 2013