Employment Discrimination in Washington

Employment discrimination against protected classes is illegal in Washington.

Updated April 20, 2018
Federal and state law prohibit Washington employers from discriminating against employees based on certain characteristics, such as race or religion. (To learn more, see our page on employment discrimination and harassment.)

What Are the Protected Classes in Washington?

In all 50 states, federal law makes it illegal to discriminate based on:

  • race
  • color
  • national origin
  • religion
  • sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions)
  • disability
  • age (40 and older)
  • citizenship status, and
  • genetic information.

In addition, Washington state law also prohibits discrimination based on:

  • race
  • color
  • national origin
  • religion
  • sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, related medical conditions, and breastfeeding)
  • disability: physical, mental, or sensory
  • age (40 and older)
  • genetic information
  • marital status
  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity
  • hepatitis C infection
  • member of state militia
  • use of service animal, and
  • domestic violence victim status.
Several cities in the U.S. have their own laws protecting additional characteristics or extending protection to more employees. Contact your local government to learn more.

Which Employers Are Subject to Antidiscrimination Laws?

Federal antidiscrimination laws apply to Illinois employers with 15 or more employees, with the following exceptions:

  • age discrimination (employers with 20 or more employees)
  • citizenship status discrimination (employers with four or more employees), and
  • equal pay for men and women (all employers).

Washington's antidiscrimination law applies to employers with eight or more employees, except for the gender-based wage discrimination law, which applies to all employers.

What Government Agency Regulates Workplace Discrimination in Washington?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that regulates workplace discrimination. You can contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by calling 800-669-4000 or check out its website at www.eeoc.gov. The website will help you locate an EEOC field office in Washington. (See our article on filing a discrimination claim with the EEOC.)

The Human Rights Commission enforces state antidiscrimination law in Washington. You can contact the Human Rights Commission at 206-464-6500 or 800-233-3247.


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