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Protected classes and harassment claims

On Behalf of | Jun 13, 2018 | Firm News

You already know you were harassed because you felt harassed by what happened. But there’s more to a harassment claim than the event where you felt harassed. To have a harassment claim, you have to be part of a protected class and the harassment has to be because of your status in that protected class.

But knowing what the protected classes are and who fits into them can be difficult. Especially when you’re still processing what happened and you’re trying to figure out what to do next.

Here’s what you need to know about protected classes and the effect they have on a harassment claim.

Why are there protected classes?

Throughout history, there have been certain groups pf people who are particularly vulnerable to harassment. Because of this, special protections have been put in place to ensure that people in these protected classes are treated with the same respect and dignity as people who are not in these classes.

Federally and state protected classes

Not everyone is in a protected class when it comes to discrimination and harassment. Over the years, federal cases have established certain classes that need extra protection because they are more prone to things like harassment and discrimination.

Federally protected classes include:

  • Race, national origin or ancestry
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Veteran status
  • Genetic information
  • Citizenship

Here, in Colorado, sexual orientation is also recognized as a protected class.

Putting it all together

Of course, there must be harassment for there to be a harassment claim, and the harassed person also must be in a protected class, but there must be a tie between the two.

The harassed person must have been harassed because of their status in that protected class. This is where the status in the protected class becomes important. Feeling like your boss is picking on you is likely not enough for a harassment claim. Your boss’s action toward you would have to be because of your status in a protected class. For example, if someone in the workplace was insisting a female employee always clean the break-room because cleaning is “woman’s work.”

Building a harassment case can some complex elements, but if no one makes the case, nothing will change. Making a case for harassment when it happens is just one more step in making sure the workplace is level playing field for everyone.