What are the Protected Classes Under Discrimination Laws?

Many are familiar with the topic of discrimination and would assume they know exactly what the term refers to, but it’s not as easily defined as many think. An employer may dislike an employee. They might feel his or her personality is grating or disruptive to the team efforts and they may, as a result of their dislike, treat that employee differently. You might even say they treat that employee unfairly. Is that enough evidence for a discrimination claim? It may not be. In order to file a valid discrimination claim, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) needs to see that the discrimination falls within pre-determined categories or protected classes.


The way the courts determine protected groups under discrimination laws today was heavily influenced by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prevents discrimination in educational environments as well as public workplaces. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an individual cannot be discriminated against for: age, pregnancy, national origin, race, ethnic background, religion, or sexual orientation.


There are common forms of discrimination that fall under the umbrella of protection held by the EEOC that are easily recognizable:


  1. 1.       Discrimination against workers due to their national origin, heritage or country of original citizenship.
  2. 2.       Being required to speak English in the workplace (this may only be enforced if speaking English is a requirement to effectively perform job duties in the workplace).
  3. 3.       Discrimination against an employee because of a foreign accent.
  4. 4.       Hostile workplace environments created by “teasing” or offensive comments or actions aimed at employees due to their sexual orientation.
  5. 5.       Employees that are fired due to their sexual orientation have also been victims of discrimination in form of wrongful termination.


If you feel that you need to further discuss any of these issues, please get in touch with Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik. We’d be happy to help you determine what action is necessary to right the situation.