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Nearly everyday, I speak to employees who are suffering from workplace discrimination. Many have very sympathetic tales of being treated differently that co-workers for a variety of reasons.  All ask the same question:  How do I file a workplace discrimination claim in this situation.Unfortunately, the answer is often that they have no claim to file.  Why? Not all discrimination is unlawful in the workplace. The. only time an employee (or former employee or applicant) can file a legal claim for employment discrimination is when the discrimination is prohibited by law.  Discrimination in employment is prohibited by statute (a law passed by a legislative body).  There are two main sources for such laws.  The first is federal law and the second is state law.

Federal law prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of:

  1. Race;
  2. Color;
  3. Sex;
  4. National origin;
  5. Religion;
  6. Age 40 or older; or
  7. Disability.

Additionally, state law may provide additional basis or “protected classes” for discrimination in the workplace. Unfortunately a number of states do not have any additional “protected classes” other than the ones provided for in federal law. For example, in North Carolina, employment discrimination is prohibited by state law, but only on the same 7 protected classes as federal law.

Therefore, if the discrimination is on the basis of any of the above 7 protected classes, you may have an employment claim.  If not, then there will be no legal claim for employment discrimination even if the discrimination is clear.

If you feel you have been discriminated against due to one of the 7 protected classes, you should contact an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible. Under federal law, you have a very limited amount of time to pursue  employment discrimination claims.  That is because federal law requires you to file an administrative claim with the EEOC or similar state agency within either 180 days or 300 days of the act of discrimination.