What Is a Protected Class?

Protected classes are a cornerstone of a fair and just society. They provide a legal shield against discrimination and a powerful support system for those who have been marginalized by discrimination. 


What Are the Protected Classes?


The protected class is a group of individuals who are lawfully protected from being harassed or harmed by the practices, policies, and laws that discriminate against them because of a shared characteristic such as race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or age. These groups of people are protected by both state laws and U.S. federal laws.


The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice is the sovereign federal agency answerable for enforcing all federal anti-discrimination laws. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) is assigned with the implementation of these laws, especially as they apply to employment.


Discrimination vs. Harassment


“Discrimination” is defined by the dictionary as “the act of treating someone unfairly because of his or her race, religion, gender, age, or other personal characteristics.” “Harassment” is defined by the dictionary as “the act of bothering and annoying someone,” and “violation of another’s personal and civil rights.” 


We can witness harassment and discrimination happening in various ways, such as in the workplace, on the internet, in schools, and in our neighborhoods. Harassment and discrimination may affect different people in different ways, and it is important to understand each of these forms of discrimination in order to properly combat it.


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines harassment as “unwelcome verbal, written, or physical conduct based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or genetic information.” Discrimination, on the other hand, is defined by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as “a distinction, exclusion, or preference based on race, color, religion, gender, disability, age, or sexual orientation.


What Classes Are Not Protected?


Certain groups are not attended as protected classes as per the anti-discrimination laws. These classes are;


  • Income level or socio-economic classes like “middle class”
  • Level of educational attainment
  • Persons with a criminal history
  • Undocumented immigrants


Final Words


Federal law strictly prohibits discrimination against protected classes. However, it does not bar organizations from considering the membership of a person in a protected class under every circumstance. 

To know more about the Protected Class, attend the Compliance Prime webinar.

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