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1.2

Statutory Coverage/Protected Categories

In Massachusetts, employers of six or more employees are covered by the state’s

general anti-discrimination statute, Mass. Gen. L. c. 151B (Chapter 151B). Smaller

employers are governed by other state statutes protecting employees from certain forms of

discrimination. Federal laws governing workplace discrimination apply to employers with

15 or more employees (or in the case of age discrimination, 20 or more employees).

Substantive differences between state and federal laws exist, but are beyond the scope of this

Guide.

The major “protected categories” covered by state and/or federal law are:

  • Race, color, national origin and ancestry

  • Age (age 40 and above)

  • Sex/Gender

  • Sex/Gender – Pregnancy

  • Sex/Sexual Harassment

  • Sexual Orientation

  • Religion

  • Disability

  • Military/Veteran/National Guard or Reserve Status

  • Genetic Information

  • Criminal Record

Although most of the “protected categories” are self-explanatory, the following

summarizes the statutory coverage and discusses certain special issues.

A.

Race, Color, National Origin and Ancestry

Chapter 151B and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et

seq. (Title VII), prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin and

ancestry. These statutes prohibit discrimination based on one’s race or color, such as

African-American, Asian or Hispanic. “National origin” and ancestry are references to the

country where a person was born or the country from which her ancestors came. Thus, for

4

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