“Protected classes” are categories of people who it is illegal to discriminate against based on certain traits. That means it is against the law for an employer to discriminate against an employee, or potential employee, who is a member of a protected class. It should be noted, however, that it is legal to discriminate against someone who is not covered by a protected class. For example, a Georgia employer could NOT discriminate against an  employee based only on the fact that he is black, because race is a protected class. However, an employee with a bad attitude, regardless of race, could be discriminated against, because attitude is not part of a protected class. The most common protected classes under United States federal law include:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Color/Race
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Veteran Status
  • Religion
  • Family Status


Sexual harassment is barred by Title VII as well, which is a federal law that prohibits several forms of discrimination or harassment and it protects individuals from being subjected to such offenses. Sexual harassment is classified into two basic forms: hostile work environment and quid pro quo.

Hostile Work Environment:

Hostile work environment is a form sexual harassment based on sex and it subjects an employee to explicit or implicit conduct of a sexual nature. It can be verbal or physical and it unreasonably interferes with an individual’s employment and work performance by creating a hostile, offensive, or intimidating work environment. Examples of a hostile work environment are un-welcomed sexual advances, posting pictures with sexual content, and allowing/tolerating behaviors that are sexually suggestive.

Quid Pro Quo:

Quid pro quo is a reciprocal form of sexual harassment. It requires an employee to succumb to unwelcome sexual conduct. For example, requesting sex, in exchange for anything related to employment, such as threatening to alter the terms of employment, including any tangible benefits, a promotion or requirement to maintain an individual’s current position. One example where a superior would be at fault for quid pro quo sexual harassment is if he or she tells you that you will not be considered for a promotion unless you have sex with him or her.


It is illegal for an employer or person at fault for discrimination or harassment to carry out any form of retaliation, including wrongful termination, against an employee or complaining party for making a complaint or seeking legal action.


Several of the listed causes of action require you to first file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).  There are strict time limits established by the EEOC before your claim will be barred, so it is crucial to speak with an employment attorney as soon as you think you have a claim

At Pasley, Nuce, Mallory & Davis, LLC, we have dedicated attorneys with known employment law knowledge and experience to help guide you and fight for you. If you or a member of your family believe you have been discriminated against or sexually harassed, get the help you need by contacting us at any of our 4 office locations.