Who Is Protected Under Discrimination Laws?

by Don Hill

Employers want to avoid unlawful discrimination claims. A helpful step in avoiding claims is knowing who is protected under federal and state discrimination laws. Protected persons include: (1) race – persons of all races; (2) color – the color of a person’s skin within a particular race; (3) religion – employers have the duty to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of employees unless this creates an undue hardship; (4) sex – both males and females are protected; (5) age – persons age 40 and above are protected, and there is no upper age limit after which persons are no longer protected; (6) national origin – this is the country or area from which a worker’s ancestors came; (7) disability – persons with physical or mental impairments which substantially limit them from performing the essential duties of a job must be reasonably accommodated to allow them to perform job duties unless this creates an undue hardship; (8) genetic information – an employer may not use genetic information to make an employment decision; (9) veterans – veterans are protected; (10) pregnancy – employers must grant reasonable leaves of absence and generally reinstate employees returning from leave; and (11) bankruptcy, garnishment and child support orders – employees may not be disciplined or terminated for these reasons.

You can see that everyone is in some protected group, and many persons are in more than one group. An employer may not unlawfully discriminate based on these protected groups in all employment decisions, including recruitment, hiring, job assignments, evaluations, promotions, demotions, leaves of absence, compensation, discipline and termination. If you employ persons in cities other than Wichita or in other states, we can assist you in determining who is protected in those areas. If you have questions about the discrimination laws or avoiding claims, we would be glad to advise you.

(Article appeared in Adams Jones March 2011 Newsletter)