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Trial Court Office of Workplace Rights & Compliance legally-defined protected classes

A list of current legally-defined protected classes. The list includes age, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, veteran status, and genetic information.

Table of Contents


The 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older.


The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended (ADA) prohibits discrimination against a qualified individual with a disability who is an employee or applicant, and directs the Trial Court to provide reasonable accommodations that do not pose an undue burden.

National origin

Refers to discrimination against someone because they come from a particular place, because of their ethnicity or accent, or because it is believed that they have a particular ethnic background. It also includes discrimination because of marriage or other association with someone of a particular nationality.


Refers to ancestry or physical or cultural characteristics associated with a certain race, such as skin color, hair texture or styles, or certain facial features, and on the basis of stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals of certain racial groups. All individuals in the following racial classifications, including persons of more than one race, are protected from discrimination: 

  • Black: All persons having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa including, but not limited to, African-Americans, and all persons having origins in any of the original peoples of the Cape Verdean Islands. 
  • White (not of Hispanic origin): Persons having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East. 
  • Hispanic/Latino: All persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central, Latin or South American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. 
  • Asian or Pacific Islander: All persons having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent or the Pacific Islands, including, for example, the areas of China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands and Samoa. 
  • American Indian or Alaskan Native: All persons having origins in any of the original peoples of North America, and who maintain cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition. 


Refers to discrimination against someone because of their sincerely held religious, moral, or ethical beliefs. It includes all aspects of religious observance and practice. This Policy also protects an individual against discrimination or harassment because they have made a request for a reasonable accommodation for their religious observance and practice.


The 1964 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII) prohibits treating someone differently or unfavorably because of that person’s sex. Discrimination against an individual because of gender identity, including transgender status, or because of sexual orientation is prohibited

  • Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person's sex. Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.
  • The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: Prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, such as lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child and obligates the Trial Court to accommodate pregnant workers.
  • Gender Identity: Massachusetts General Laws (MGL 151B) prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, which is defined as “a person's gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person's physiology or assigned sex at birth.
    • Gender identity is internal and a central part of a  person’s sense of self
    • Gender expression is the external way of defining self and is separate from sexual orientation and gender assigned at birth.
  • Sexual Orientation: Having an orientation for or being identified as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality

Veteran status

Refers to discrimination against anyone based on the fact that they serve or have served in any branch of the United States armed forces.

Genetic information

Refers to discrimination against someone based upon information about an individual’s genetic tests and the genetic tests of an individual’s family members, as well as family medical history.

Participation in discrimination complaint-related activities

Refers to discrimination against someone because they made a discrimination complaint, participated in a discrimination investigation or other proceeding, or otherwise opposed discrimination.

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