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Jacksonville Bankruptcy Lawyer > Blog > Employment Discrimination > What is a Protected Class When it Comes to Employment Discrimination?

What is a Protected Class When it Comes to Employment Discrimination?


When the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was passed, it granted employees broadscale protection from employers, preventing discriminatory practices in hiring, firing, or promoting. Every state in the U.S. has adopted this law and some states have gone well beyond the text of the law to extend protections to others. In this article, we’ll discuss protected characteristics and employment discrimination.

What is a Protected Characteristic? 

A protected characteristic is considered something that is immutable. It is not, for example, a hairstyle, even one with cultural significance. While this could change in the future, an employee has no right to a certain hairstyle or manner of dress. Characteristics protected under Title VII include:

  • Race, color, ethnicity, nation of origin – An employee cannot be denied employment, promotion, or fired for their race, the color of their skin, or their ethnicity.
  • Sex, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation – Originally, these protections only applied to women in cases of employment discrimination. Today, these laws are interpreted as protecting gays and transfolk. An individual cannot be discriminated against because they are gay, gender-nonconforming, or female. Also protects women from sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • Religion or creed – A person cannot be denied employment for practicing or not practicing any religion.
  • Familial status – A person cannot be denied employment because they are pregnant, have children, or considerations related to the status of their family.
  • Disability – Employers are expected to make “reasonable accommodations” for an employee who is able to do their job, but might have some difficulty due to disability. Disability cannot be the reason for denying employment unless the disability substantially prevents the individual from carrying out the duties of their job.
  • Age – Employers cannot deny employment to someone based on the fact that they are over 40.

Employment Discrimination Lawsuits 

Discrimination of any kind in the workplace is illegal. This includes not only discrimination in hiring, firing, and promoting, but also workplace harassment. Hostile work environment lawsuits are slightly different than denial-of-employment lawsuits.

Types of denial of employment lawsuits include:

  • Discrimination in firing – An employee is fired because of a protected characteristic.
  • Discrimination in hiring/promoting – A qualified employee with a protected characteristic is passed up for a job or promotion and the job is offered to someone less qualified.
  • Unfair wage practices – An employee is offered less money for the same position because of a protected characteristic.

However, these aren’t the only types of discrimination lawsuits filed. Employees who suffer substantial harassment from other employees, bosses, or even tertiary staff and vendors can file lawsuits against their employer. Types of hostile work environment lawsuits include:

  • Sexual harassment – An employee is the target of unwanted attention from another coworker, boss, or anyone else with access to the employee. The employer is required to protect the employee from such conduct.
  • Other forms of harassment – Making jokes about Old Bob’s approach to the job turns into harassment if Bob reports the incidents to human resources and human resources neglects to do anything about it. Bob is entitled to a workplace free of unwanted jokes and bullying.

Talk to an Employment Discrimination Attorney Today 

Have you been unfairly treated on the job? Talk to the Jacksonville employment discrimination attorneys at the Law Office of Carol M. Galloway today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your situation in more detail.

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