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Am I part of a protected class? What does that mean?

On Behalf of | Jul 31, 2023 | Discrimination

A protected class is the legal term for a group of people who share a common characteristic that cannot be the basis for discrimination in employment or other areas. Federal, state, and local laws attempt to foster fair and inclusive work environments for all individuals, including historically marginalized groups. Knowing what the specified characteristics are and what protections you are entitled to can be crucial if you are being treated unfairly on the job.

Protected classes in New York

At the federal level, protected classes shield individuals from discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, religion, sex, age, and disability. New York state and city laws include those classes and expand the scope to provide additional protections and prohibit discrimination based on the following classes:

  • Military status
  • Marital status
  • Familial status
  • Domestic violence victim status
  • Pregnancy-related conditions
  • Genetic characteristics
  • Prior arrest or conviction record
  • Gender identity
  • Credit history (in New York City)

What does membership mean?

It is unlawful to discriminate against employees and job applicants because they belong to a protected class. For instance, employers cannot discriminate against employees based on hair texture, style, length, or the use of head coverings that are commonly associated with a particular racial group or religious group. Similarly, employers cannot refuse to hire workers based on the perception that someone is either too young or too old. Although an employer would likely avoid explaining a decision to reject a job candidate because of age, using code words such as “digital natives” to filter job applicants can be evidence of age discrimination.

Know your legal options

If an employer or manager fired, refused to hire, harassed, or declined to promote you because of your membership in a protected class, you may have legal remedies available. You can file a complaint with the Division of Human Rights and may have grounds to file a lawsuit. An attorney can help evaluate your case and inform you of any legal options available.

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The Attorneys of Katz Melinger PLLC