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Protected Classes under Anti-Discrimination Laws

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What Is a Protected Class under Anti-Discrimination Law?

A phrase commonly referred to when discrimination laws are discussed is “protected class.” Many people do not know what this means, but it simply refers to a group of people protected from discriminatory laws, practices, and policies.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects certain groups from undue discrimination. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal anti-discrimination laws, a person may not be discriminated against based on any of the following:

  • Age
  • Race
  • National origin
  • Religious beliefs
  • Gender
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy
  • Veteran status

Many states also have their own protected class laws that may often be more inclusive and broad than federal statutes. For example, some state laws also protect:

What Are Some Examples of Discrimination against Protected Classes?

In each particular protected class under anti-discrimination laws, people tend to face a number of common forms of discrimination. For example:

  • A person of a particular sexual orientation is denied a marriage license when they seek to marry their partner.
  • An employee is subjected to teasing and harassment by coworkers because of their gender.
  • A registered voter is treated differently due to their national origin or race when they are attempting to engage in the electoral process.

What Is Not Considered a Protected Class under an Anti- Discrimination Law?

Although discrimination can exist within all types of groups, there are certain groups that are not considered a protected class under anti-discrimination laws:

  • Education level
  • Economic class
  • Social membership
  • Illegal aliens
  • People with Criminal Records

What Are Immutable Characteristics in Regards to Anti-Discrimination Laws?

There are some groups that are undeniably a protected class, and that protection applies to what is known as an immutable characteristic. Such a characteristic is a physical trait that is extremely difficult to change, such as race or gender. The difficulty or impossibility of the change is what makes gender, race, or other such characteristics of a person immutable. Therefore, if a law, practice, or policy discriminates based on an immutable characteristic, then the claimant will be considered part of a protected class.  Being part of a protected class does not automatically guarantee a person protection in just any situation or scenario, but determining whether someone is a protected class or not is the first step in determining the validity of a discrimination lawsuit.

An immutable characteristic is the easiest way to define a protected class, which is why immutable characteristics are the most protected under the law.

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

Protected class laws can sometimes lead to very complex legal claims that require a lot of investigation and research. You may wish to hire a qualified employment law lawyer in your area if you need help understanding what a protected class is. The assistance of a 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 Ryan Griffith

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 04-16-2018 11:28 PM PDT

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