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Examining the idea of protected classes

When talking about discrimination in Indiana work places, the term "protected class" often comes up. Although this typically refers to the categories listed in the state and federal civil rights legislation, people may also use it to talk about other forms of discrimination.

Generally speaking, employers are not supposed to make decisions based on an individual's membership in a protected class. Hiring, firing and compensation, for example, should all have a basis in performance or merit. If employers fail to comply with these rules, they could be liable for the damages they cause the targets of their discrimination.

One of the most important laws related to this subject is the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The text of the law makes it unlawful for current or potential employers to make decisions based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • National origin

These protected classes are supplemented by those listed in various other laws. FindLaw lists many of these anti-discrimination acts, such as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 and the Family and Medical Leave Act. 

As evidenced by the large number of civil rights protections at the federal level, there are a variety of individuals who could be protected from injuries caused by the discriminatory action of an employer. The argument is often about whether the protected class entered into the employers' decisions.

In cases involving claims of discrimination, it is often not enough to simply know federal or Indiana laws. Successfully claiming compensation for losses typically involves investigation, establishing a clear pattern of discrimination or several egregious events thereof. As such, a case-by-case analysis is usually necessary.


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