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What are ‘Protected Classes’?

Whenever many people hear the terms “workplace discrimination” or “workplace harassment,” they think of employees’ receiving poor treatment at their places of employment. While that general description is on the right track, poor treatment at work must be due to a specific characteristic of an employee for it to rise to the level or discrimination or harassment. These characteristics are referred to as “protected classes” and are important to understanding employee rights.

List of Protected Classes in Florida

Federal and state laws supplement each other in Florida to come up with the list of protected classes recognized in the Sunshine State. These classes are:

  • Age
  • HIV/AIDS diagnosis
  • Citizenship information
  • Color
  • Disability (sometimes referred to as “handicap” in Florida law)
  • Gender identity
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Sickle cell trait

To put it more clearly, a supervisor (or potential supervisor) may not discriminate against you, harass you, or create a hostile work environment for you on the basis of those 14 protected classes. Some hypothetical situations involving discrimination based on your inclusion in a protected class include:

  • The hiring manager in an interview asks whether you are married. Later on, he mentions that the position you applied for requires a lot of overtime work and travel (which you noticed in the job description). After you mention that you are married, the interview seems to take a turn and you’re quickly shuffled out the door. Whether it dawns on you or not, you were discriminated against as a candidate based on your marital status.
  • You happen to be 48 and applying to work at a tech company. You feel you’re qualified for the job but the interviewer, several times, mentions how young the other team members are and how they’re able to keep up with the constant changes in the latest software. Due to no other reasons besides your age, you do not receive an offer
  • Let’s say you are African-American. You apply for a sales position in a mid-sized company. Your resumé is well-received, and your phone interview goes well. When you go to the office for your in-person interview, you hear someone whispering about “the black guy sitting over there.” Your potential supervisor seems to be going through the motions at your interview and not engaging with you. You don’t notice a single minority working among the two dozen employees at the company. What you suspect turns out to be true the lack of diversity is due to conscious hiring decisions, and you do not receive an offer.

Because discrimination similar to the three examples above still happens in the 21st century, employees rightfully have avenues to obtain legal recourse against discriminatory employers. However, there are, occasionally, meritless lawsuits filed by current and former employees who allege that they were mistreated based on a protected class.

Trembly Law Firm helps business owners comply with all federal and state laws so both employer and employee are protected. We provide sensitive, discreet, and effective legal counsel to business owners dealing with frivolous discrimination or harassment lawsuits. Give us a call at (305) 431-5678 to discuss your options.

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