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Protected Criteria

The protected criteria vary from state to state, as well as on the federal level. Harassment and discrimination based on the following criteria is illegal in California. In addition, it is always unethical to discriminate based on these criteria.

Employees are protected from harassment and discrimination based on their actual or perceived:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions)
  • Disability: Physical or mental
  • Age (40 and older)
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation and identity
  • Medical condition
  • Political activities or affiliations
  • Military or veteran status
  • Status as a victim of domestic violence, assault, or stalking
An individual need not be in the minority to be protected. Harassment and discrimination laws and ethics apply equally to men and women, individuals of a religious faith and atheists, married and unmarried people.

The Supreme Court has specifically upheld that sexual harassment and sexual discrimination does not need to be cross-gender. A man can be guilty of harassing a man; a woman may be guilty of harassing a woman.

Your employees are protected from discrimination and harassment even when they aren’t yet your employees. Individuals are legally protected from harassment and discrimination starting with the hiring process, including advertisements for the position, applications, screening and interviews. Their protection continues through the term of their employment, including the conditions in which they work, as well as any decisions made regarding their promotion, transfer, termination, or separation. Employees cannot be denied access to training programs, apprenticeships, organizations, or unions, based on any of the protected criteria.