Protected Classes in the City of Seattle

A protected class is a group of people who have a common characteristic and who are legally protected from discrimination based on that characteristic. Protected classes are important because they are legal rights that protect our identities.

The City of Seattle has the following protected classes, where discrimination laws are enforced by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights in employment, housing, contracting, and public places. Below each protected class is an example of what could be considered discrimination. These examples are just a few instances to serve as helpful guidance.

Age1

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • An employer is downsizing but only lays off the older employees.
  • Getting turned down for a promotion that ends up going to a younger, less qualified employee.

Ancestry

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • The use of accents or language rooted in stereotypes or cultural ignorance, often said in the form of jokes.
  • A housing provider treating you differently because you have a name or accent associated with a particular ethnic group.

Breastfeeding in a Public Place

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • Sexual comments made about a person breastfeeding.
  • An organization that refuses to give a break or to give privacy to workers who need to pump breast milk.

Color

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • An employee with darker skin receiving a lower salary than a white employee in a similar role.
  • Requiring a photograph of you or your family with your housing rental or sales application.
  • An employee of color receiving a harsher punishment for being late than white employees.

Creed

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • Being told by a real estate agent that you will be happier in a nearby area because “the Jews all live there,” after he took notice of your last name.
  • Being denied services in your apartment after the property owner saw you with a bible published by a group he described as a ‘cult.’

Disability

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • Firing an employee after discovering that they have a learning disability.
  • A property owner denying a reasonable modification, like installing a grab bar in the shower or a flashing fire alarm.
  • A property owner refusing to rent to you because you have a service animal, and they have a no-pet policy.

Gender Identity

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • Being told that renting to a transgender person would violate a landlord’s religious practice or beliefs.
  • Passing up a qualified employee for a promotion because they are transgender.
  • Forcing a person who identifies as a woman to use a male gendered bathroom.

Genetic Information2

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • An employer fails to promote you after finding out you have relatives with a chronic disease, and they fear you have it too.

Immigration or Citizenship Status

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • A housing advertisement that says, “preference for U.S. citizens.”
  • Being denied service at a restaurant because you “look like an immigrant.”
  • A property owner refusing to accept a document from you or refusing a document produced for identification because it has a future end date. 

Marital Status

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • Being denied certain employment benefits because you are single.
  • Refusing to hire someone because of who they are married to.

National Origin

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • When a qualified tenant is refused housing after telling the property owner that they were born outside of the United States.
  • Being paid less than your co-workers because you have a green card.

Parental status3

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • Being denied housing in a 1-bedroom unit because you have a child.
  • A restaurant refusing to serve you because the restaurant is not “kid friendly.”

Political Ideology

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • Refusing a housing rental to a qualified tenant because of who they voted for in the last election.
  • Being denied service or kicked out of a Seattle business because you wore clothing, or a logo associated with a political campaign, political organizing group, or a specific political viewpoint.

Race4

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • A Black employee being told that they cannot wear their hair in locks because it is “unprofessional.”
  • An employer not hiring an Asian employee because “you wouldn’t fit in” or the “customers would object.”

Religion

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • Banning headscarves in the workplace and not making a religious accommodation for an employee who wears a hijab.
  • Advertising on Craigslist that the owners prefer “Christians.”

Sex

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • Being a woman who is paid less than your male co-worker  for doing the same or similar job duties.
  • A property owner refusing to remove sexually explicit and offensive posters on the communal bulletin board.

Sexual Orientation

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination: 

  • Being told that all tenants cohabiting must be related by blood or marriage – and that the property owner doesn’t recognize domestic partnerships or ‘gay marriages.’
  • Being asked questions, such as: “Are you two, like, together?” “Are you gay?”, “Who plays the man and who plays the woman?” or if you are told, “No homosexuality in my building."
  • A hotel owner refusing to reserve a single bedroom for two men.
  • A lesbian couple being denied financial aid from a Seattle non-profit organization’s program where the couple meets all criteria of the financial aid program.

Use of a Section 8 Voucher3

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • A property owner advertising that they do not accept Section 8 vouchers.
  • A property owner who refuses to rent to a tenant using a Section 8 voucher.

Military Status or Veteran

These behaviors, policies, or practices could be discrimination:

  • An employer not re-employing a former employee after they returned from active duty.
  • Refusing to accommodate a veteran’s disability in the workplace.

1 Age discrimination for City of Seattle, it is any age.
2 This protected class only applies to Employment cases.
3 This protected class does not apply to Employment cases.
4 Includes traits associated with race.