Race and color were the first classes protected. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibits discrimination « in civil rights or immunities. because of race, colour or previous state of servitude. » Section 1981 (a) of the Act prohibits discrimination in the manufacture of contracts on the basis of race and colour, which includes employment contracts. The term « protected class » refers to groups of people who are protected by law from harm or harassment by laws, practices and policies that discriminate against them on the basis of a common characteristic (e.g., race, sex, age, disability or sexual orientation). These groups are protected by U.S. federal and state laws. In June 2020, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, stating that the prohibition of discrimination under Title VII « because of… sex » covers discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Court based its decision on the clear wording of the law, which prohibits an employer from treating an employee worse than others because of their sex, concluding that any action taken on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity inherently involves considering an employee`s sex. The court illustrated this with several examples, including a hypothetical hypothetical in which an exemplary employee introduced a woman as the employee`s wife at a company party. The court said whether the employee would fire the employee for violating a policy prohibiting the employment of gay or lesbian employees would affect the gender of the employee – if the employee is a man, the company will not fire him.
If the employee is a woman, the company will terminate her employment. Based on the clear wording of the law, the Court did not need to determine whether discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity involved gender stereotypes. Nor was Title VII extended to include new protected classes, as the dissenting judges asserted. Instead, the Court clarified that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are forms of discrimination based on sex. Since 1965, four presidents have issued executive orders prohibiting consideration of gender and gender-specific attributes in the employment decisions of the U.S. federal government and its contractors, which ultimately include both sexual orientation and gender identity. Even if this limited exception applies, the religious organization can only give preference based on religion and cannot discriminate on the basis of any of the other protected categories. Religious housing providers who receive HUD or other federal funding, such as housing or transitional housing, cannot discriminate on the basis of religion. Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 24, 1965, Executive Order 11246 established requirements for non-discriminatory practices in the hiring and employment of U.S.
government contractors. It « prohibits federal contractors and government-backed contractors and subcontractors who conduct more than $10,000 in government business in a year from discriminating in employment decisions based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. » It also requires contractors to « take positive steps to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment, regardless of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. » The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines « religious beliefs » as theistic beliefs (i.e., those that involve belief in God) as well as non-theistic moral or ethical beliefs about right and wrong that are sincerely supported by the strength of traditional religious views. In most cases, there is no problem whether a practice or belief is religious or not. In general, however, religion is generally concerned with « ultimate ideas » about « life, purpose, and death, » while social, political, and/or economic philosophies and simple personal preferences are not « religious » beliefs. It`s important to remember that a person`s religious beliefs can change over time. In addition, individuals may choose to adhere to some tenets of their religion, but not others, and/or individuals may have a sincere belief in a religious practice that is not observed by other followers of their religion. Title VII also protects workers or claimants from discrimination if they do not hold any particular religious opinion and/or are atheists. Religious discrimination can also mean treating a person differently because that person is married (or affiliated with) a person of a particular religion, or because of their affiliation with a religious organization or group. An employee cannot be compelled to participate (or not to participate) in a religious activity as a condition of employment. In 1967, Congress added age to the list of classes protected by the Age in Employment Discrimination Act (ADEA). ADEA only applies to individuals 40 years of age and older, and federal courts have interpreted it narrowly over time, typically requiring more than a year or two of age difference between employees to support the finding of age discrimination.
In 1973, persons with disabilities were added to the list of protected categories under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the employment of federal employees. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) extended similar protections to workers in the private sector. In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act added virtually all Americans with disabilities to the list of protected classes. Executive Order 11478, signed by U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, on August 8, 1969, prohibited discrimination in the competitive service of federal civilian employees on certain grounds. The Regulations were subsequently amended to cover other protected classes. Executive Order 11478 affected federal civilian workers, including the United States Postal Service and civilian employees of the United States Armed Forces. It prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex, national origin, disability and age. It also required all departments and agencies to take positive steps to promote employment opportunities for these categories. Executive Order 13672, signed into law by U.S.
President Barack Obama on July 21, 2014, amended two previous executive orders to extend protection against discrimination in hiring and employment to other categories. It prohibits discrimination in the civilian federal workforce based on gender identity and in hiring by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Although not required by law, many private employers also have policies that protect their employees from discrimination or harassment based on their marital status, including same-sex marriages. In addition, many states have their own laws that protect broader and more inclusive categories of people. Age was added to the list of protected classes in 1967 with the passage of the Employment Discrimination on the Basis of Age Act. The law only applies to persons aged 40 and over. The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice is the independent federal agency responsible for enforcing all federal anti-discrimination laws. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing these laws, which are specific to employment. If at any time you believe you have been discriminated against and/or denied accommodation on the basis of religion, please contact an Equal Employment Opportunity Consultant (or the Civil Rights Center) within forty-five (45) days of the alleged discriminatory event to preserve your right to file an equal employment opportunity complaint.