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Protected Classes in Employment Discrimination


Protected Classes in Employment Discrimination Cases

Dedicated Employment Discrimination Lawyers Representing Protected Class Members for Over 25 Years

What is a protected class? To understand employment discrimination, you must understand the definition of a protected class. You must also understand how a person qualifies under a protected class. The law defines employment discrimination as an employee or job applicant being treated unfairly or harassed because they are members of a protected class.

A “protected class” is a category set by federal, state, and local laws that provide protections for employees against discrimination. These categories cover many characteristics including race, religion, sex/gender, national origin, disability, age, and many more.  When you receive unfair treatment because you are part of this group of people, you have become the victim of discrimination.

What Are Protected Classes Under the Federal Law?

Depending on the federal law, there are several protected classes. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 lists protected classes as:

Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967, anyone over 40 is a protected class.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), any person with a disability is considered part of a protected class. Covered disabilities include:

  • Chronic illnesses
  • Mental illness
  • Physical limitations
  • Terminal illnesses
  • Learning disabilities
  • Addiction

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 makes genetic information a protected class. Therefore, it is illegal for an employer to make an unfair decision or harass you based on your genetic information learned through genetic testing or family health histories.

The Uniformed Services and Reemployment Rights Act (USRRA) of 1994 protects current and former military members from adverse employment actions.

Are Protected Classes Different Under State Laws?

The federal laws and state laws regarding protected classes are somewhat similar. However, different states offer more protection, while some states may redefine the terms of the protection.

Depending on the state in which you live, protected classes may allow you more leverage in the state and local courts. Each state and city may offer protections that vary from each other and federal law. Here are some areas in states that differ from federal law.

1. New York Protected Classes

  • Criminal Records
  • Political Activities
  • Bankruptcy Records

 2. New Jersey Protected Classes

What Does a Protected Class Mean in Terms of Employment Discrimination?

Employment environments may not always be the best environments. No laws prevent employers from being mean. They do not prevent employers from micromanaging or treating employees unfairly for no specific reason.

However, employers may not use a protected class as a reason to treat someone unfairly. When an employer makes any negative employment decisions based on protected classes, they are violating the law.

What Are Examples of Employment Discrimination Based on Protected Classes?

Employment discrimination can appear in many ways. It can occur when an employer makes a negative decision based on your protected class. However, it can also occur when a coworker or client treats you unfairly based on your protected class, creating a hostile work environment.

Examples of employment discrimination based on protected class include:

  • Wrongful Termination against an employee whose color is “too light” to represent an African American company.
  • Your boss offers a severance agreement to any employee over the age of 50 to avoid a large, forced reduction in force.
  • Your company insists all employees use the bathroom of their assigned gender.
  • A client refuses to work with any employee who is Jewish.
  • A coworker continues to make sexist comments about women.
  • Your supervisor refuses to give you time to pray throughout the day.
  • Your coworker makes sexual advances towards you daily.
  • Your boss fires you in retaliation for filing a complaint with HR regarding sexist comments.
  • Your supervisor does not hold your job while you are deployed as part of the national guard.
  • Your employer denies your health insurance because your genetic testing came back with a high likelihood of cancer.
  • Your boss will not provide you time to pump breastmilk at work.

If you think you experienced violations of your rights as a protected class member, contact an experienced employment lawyer to discuss your potential claim.

What Are Your Rights When Experiencing Discrimination Based on Protected Class?

Federal and state laws provide protections for employees experiencing employment discrimination based on protected class status. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles most federal cases involving employment discrimination based on protected classes.

Under the law, you can file a charge with the EEOC within 300 days of the incident. State laws provide varying time limits. It is best to consult with your employment discrimination attorney to determine the best laws to follow for your case.

Depending on the protected class violation, you may have the right also to file a claim under state anti-discrimination laws. To determine your rights as a victim of discrimination based on your protected class status, contact a dedicated employment discrimination attorney. They can help you sort through your claim’s details and guide you towards the most appropriate laws to help your claim.

Contact Our Experienced Employment Discrimination Attorneys for Your Free Consultation

The law is on your side. You are entitled to work in a place that is free from harassment and discrimination based on your protected class status.

If your rights under the rules of protected classes are violated in New York City, Philadelphia, Miami, Los Angeles, or New Jersey, the experienced employment discrimination attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group can help.

Did Your Employer Target You Based on Your Protected Class Status? Do You Have Questions About Protected Classes? Please Ask Us Your Questions at 800.807.2209 or Email us at

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