Protected Class Definitions

Age: Age discrimination occurs when people are treated less favorably due to their age. This type of discrimination can occur to a person of any age. However, it is not  it is not unlawful for an employer to take action based on age in order to observe the terms of a bona fide seniority system or employee benefit plan.

Color: Consistent with the EEOC, color refers to a person’s “pigmentation, complexion, or skin shade or tone. Thus, color discrimination occurs when a person is discriminated against based on the lightness, darkness, or other color characteristic of the person.” Color discrimination is possible “between persons of different races or ethnicities, or between persons of the same race or ethnicity.”

Creed: A creed is a formal system of beliefs followed by a religious group.

Disability: Disability means a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of a person’s major life activities. Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. Disability status extends to anyone who has a record of such impairment or is regarded as having such an impairment.

Ethnicity: Ethnicity refers to a person’s membership in an ethnic group based on shared physical and/or cultural characteristics and common ancestry. Ethnic groups often overlap with racial and religious groups.

Familial Status: Familial status applies to the parents and custodial guardians of minors who live in the same home as such minors. This status extends to those whom parents or custodial guardians have, with written permission, designated as caretakers of minors, as well as to those who are pregnant or in the process of securing legal custody of a minor.

Gender Expression: Gender expression refers to the external appearance of a person's gender identity, including that person’s behavior, clothing, body characteristics, and voice. Gender expression may or may not conform to the socially defined behaviors and characteristics that are typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.

Gender Identity: Gender identity refers to a person's innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both, or neither, and includes how people perceive or reference themselves. A person's gender identity can be the same or different from the sex assigned at that person’s birth.

Marital Status: Marital status refers to the state of a person’s relationship with a significant other and includes single, married, widowed, separated, and divorced.

National Origin: National origin means a person's actual or perceived characteristics related to that person's place of birth or that person’s ancestors’ place of birth. These characteristics encompass language, culture, accent, ethnicity, and the appearance of ethnicity, including hair texture and hairstyles commonly associated with one's national origin.

Political Affiliation: Political affiliation refers to a person’s association with or support for a political party, political candidate, politician, and/or political cause.

Pregnancy: Pregnancy refers to the period of time during which a person is gestating a fetus, beginning with conception and ending at birth or any other type of termination.

Protected Hairstyles: A protected hairstyle is any hairstyle, hair type, or hair texture historically associated with race. Such hairstyles include, but are not limited to, braids, locks, twists, tight coils or curls, cornrows, Bantu knots, and afros. 

Race: Consistent with the EEOC, race discrimination encompasses all discrimination on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived “ancestry or physical or cultural characteristics associated with a certain race, such as skin color, hair texture or styles, or certain facial features.” 

Religion: Consistent with the EEOC, religion includes “all aspects of religious observance and practice as well as belief, not just practices that are mandated or prohibited by a tenet of the individual’s faith. Religion includes not only traditional, organized religions … but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or that seem illogical or unreasonable to others.” Religion does not include “social, political, or economic philosophies.”

Sex: Consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, sex refers to a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.

Sexual Orientation: Sexual orientation refers to a person's actual or perceived emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people, and includes, but is not limited to, homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality.

Veteran Status: Veteran status applies to those who have served in the active military, naval, or air service. Employers may give preferential treatment to veterans and their relatives.