The protected vary from state to state, as well as on the federal level. Harassment and discrimination based on the following criteria may or may not be illegal in your state; however, it is always unethical to discriminate based on these criteria.
Employees are protected from harassment and discrimination based on their actual or perceived:
- Sex, which includes biological sex as well as gender identity and gender expression
- Sexual orientation
- Marital status
- National origin
- Mental and physical disability
- Medical condition, including current condition, past condition, and genetic disposition
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.
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.