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What’s a “protected class” in a California workplace?

On Behalf of | Apr 8, 2021 | Racial Discrimination

Many people think that they have to put up with whatever their employers dish out at them. The fact is that California has robust laws that protect its workers — and they enforce them. 

Both federal and state laws define certain “protected classes” of employees. What this means is that even at-will employees cannot be harassed, discriminated against or fired because of their status as a member of that class. While they can be fired for other reasons, employers are not free to act out of prejudice against someone’s membership within a certain group.

What are the protected classes in California?

There are several protected classes. Employers cannot discriminate or harass an employee based on their:

  • Age (if the worker is 40-years-old or older)
  • Color or race
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status, including being single or divorced
  • Gender expression or identity
  • Religious preferences
  • Medical conditions
  • Sex or gender, including pregnancy and related points
  • Ancestry or genetic information
  • Disability

Employers are also forbidden from discrimination or harassment that are based on certain requests by the employee. These include:

  • Requesting a leave to care for their own serious health conditions
  • Asking for time off to care for an immediate family member’s serious medical condition
  • Needing time off for pregnancy or following childbirth

If you think that you’re the victim of discrimination or harassment at work based on your race, gender or other protected status, you should speak with an attorney familiar with this area of the law. Acting quickly can help you decide the next steps you should take and preserve your rights for the future. 

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