Equal Opportunity

Protected Categories

Federal law prohibits discrimination against employees and job applicants based on the following:

Race/ethnicity: Race refers to physical characteristics (hair texture, facial features and hair color) of Blacks, Asians, Arabs, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, multi-racial individuals, or persons of any other race, color or ethnicity. Individuals of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, or any ethnicity, may belong to one or more racial group. Race may be related to color, but is not synonymous with color. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission revised definitions of race and ethnic categories are as follows:


  • Hispanic or Latino, Regardless of Race: A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race


  • White: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa
  • Black or African American: A person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands
  • Asian: Persons having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam
  • American Indian or Alaska Native: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment
  • Two or More Races: All persons who identify with more than one of the above five races

Color: Shade or hue of skin. A variety of hues exist in every ethnic and racial group.

Gender/Gender Harassment: Male or female; discrimination may include employment actions and also harassing environment based on gender bias 

Religion: Religious, ethical, or moral beliefs and practices; may also include association with a person of a particiular religion, or connection to a religious group.

National Origin: Place of birth, ethnic background, e.g., accent, culture

Disability: A person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities, (2) has a record of such an impairment, (3) is regarded as having such an impairment, or (4) is closely associated to someone with a disability.  "Life activities" are defined as those that affect employability. "Substantially limits" means the degree that the impairment affects employability. 

Age:  Person over 40

Veteran of the Vietnam-Era: Is a person who served on active duty for more than 180 days, any part of which occurred between August 5, 1964, through May 7, 1975; and (i) was discharged or released with other than a dishonorable discharge; or (ii) was discharged or released from active duty for a service-connected disability if any part of such active duty was performed between August 5, 1964, through May 7, 1975.

Special Disabled Veteran: (i) A veteran who is entitled to compensation (or who but for the receipt of military retired pay would be entitled to compensation) under laws administered by the Department of Veteran Affairs for a disability (a) rated at 30 percent or more; or (b) rated at 10 or 20 percent if it has been determined that the individual has a serious employment disability; or (ii) a veteran who was discharged or released from active duty because of a service-connected disability.

Other Disabled Veteran: A disabled veteran who does not fall in the special disabled veteran category.

Massachusetts law protects the same groups as federal law and also prohibits discrimination based on:

  • Marital Status: Whether someone married or not
  • Sexual Orientation: Gay or lesbian
  • Gender: Massachusetts in practice includes gender identity/transgender in addition to male and female
  • Reserve or National Guard Service (employment only): Individuals who are members of the National Guard and Reserve
  • Genetic Information: Test results that indicate presence or absence of genetic abnormalities or characteristics
  • Criminal record except as otherwise allowed by law
  • Retaliation: No one may be subject to discrimination based on having participated in the review of a complaint of discrimination or sexual harassment.