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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.

Sex/Sexual Harassment: Male or female; being pregnant or having a pregnancy-related condition; discrimination may include employment actions, harassing environment based on sex bias, sexual harassment, and sexual violence 

Religion: Religious, ethical, or moral beliefs and practices; may also include association with a person of a particular 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


  • Disabled Veteran - Defined as one of the following:
    • a veteran of the U.S. military, ground, naval or air service 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 Secretary of Veterans Affairs; or
    • a person who was discharged or released from active duty because of a service-connected disability
  • Recently Separated Veteran - Defined as any veteran who has been discharged during the last three years from active duty in the U.S. military, ground, naval, or air service.
  • Active Duty Wartime or Campaign Badge Veteran - Defined as a veteran who served on active duty in the U.S. military, ground, naval or air service during a war, or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized under the laws administered by the Department of Defense.
  • Armed Forces Service Medal Veteran - Defined as a veteran who, while serving on active duty in the U.S. military, ground, naval or air service, participated in a United States military operation for which an Armed Forces service medal was awarded pursuant to Executive Order 12985. 

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

  • Marital Status: Whether someone married or not
  • Sexual Orientation: Having an orientation for or being identified as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality or homosexuality
  • Gender Identity and Expression, which are both included in the definition of Gender Identity: 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. In essence, gender identity is a person's internal sense of their own gender. Self-identification of gender is based on gender identity that is sincerely held as part of a person's core identity.
  • 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 filing or participating in the review of a complaint of discrimination or sexual harassment, or based on inquiring about salaries of other employees