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Protected Class Laws

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What Are Protected Class Laws?

“Protected Class” is a legal term related to anti-discrimination laws and policies. Basically, employer, supervisors, and other figures are prohibited from discriminating against employees or future employees based on their membership in a protected class. Protected class laws are also applicable in non-employment situations, such as when a person is applying for housing or for government benefits.  

What Are the Different Types of Protected Classes?

 According to federal laws, protected class can include a person’s:

  • Race
  • National Origin
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Disability

Thus, an employer can’t discriminate against employees or candidates based on any of these categories. For example, if they deny a person retirement benefits due to their race, they may be subject to an investigation for discrimination. 

Are State Laws Similar to Federal Laws?

States also maintain protected class laws; these may often be more inclusive than federal statutes. For example, some state laws (like HEPA) may also protect:

  • Ancestry
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital Status
  • Arrest/Court criminal records

These may vary depending on state and local laws.  Thus, if you’re unsure about whether a class is protected, you may need to contact a lawyer for help with researching the laws. 

What If I’ve Been Discriminated Against?

If you believe that you’ve been discriminated against due to your membership in a particular protected class, you may be able to file a complaint. This is usually done by filing a claim with the EEOC or other similar government agency. The agency may conduct an investigation and prescribe a remedy for your situation. 

If that doesn’t work out, you may wish to file a private lawsuit in a civil court of law. In any case, you’ll want need to compile as much evidence and information for your claim that you can, which can be used in an EEOC investigation or during a court trial.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with Protected Class Laws?

Protected class laws can sometimes lead to very complex legal claims. You may wish to hire a qualified lawyer in your area if you need help understanding what a protected class is. The assistance of an experienced lawyer is generally needed for filing a discrimination claim, whether it is with the EEOC or in a court of law.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 04-20-2015 05:00 PM PDT

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