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Protected classes and discrimination in the workplace

On Behalf of | Jan 13, 2023 | Employment Law |

Being treated unfairly at work is frustrating and distressing, especially if you believe you were wrongfully fired for discriminatory reasons. Whether you have rights under state and federal discrimination laws depends, in part, on whether you are in a protected class.

What is a protected class?

A protected class is simply a group of people who have a shared characteristic and have protection under state or federal law. Oregon law recognizes more protected classes in the workplace than federal law. Still, some examples of protected classes include:

  • Race
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Disability

If you are a member of a “protected class,” you cannot lawfully be discriminated against in the workplace. Federal and state laws protect certain classes of people from unfair treatment in the workplace based on their membership in the protected class that leads to an adverse employment decision or a hostile work environment.

Note also that you cannot be retaliated against at work for reporting unlawful activity in the workplace or refusing to do something illegal in the workplace. That is also a type of protected class.

What to do if you are discriminated against

If you are discriminated against in the workplace based on your membership in a protected class, and you suffer harm as a result, you have rights. First, you can bring the issue up to your supervisor or human resources department. Chances are your workplace has a procedure in place to handle allegations of discrimination.

If that does not resolve your complaint, you can report the discrimination to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries. An investigation will be performed, and a possible settlement will be developed.

If that does not work for you, you then might be able to file a lawsuit against your employer based on unlawful termination. Doing so can be complicated, so it is advisable to ensure you have a solid case and the appropriate assistance before proceeding


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