A protected group is a group of people qualified for special protection by a law, policy, or similar authority. In the United States, the term is frequently used in connection with employees and employment.
U.S. federal law protects individuals from discrimination or harassment based on sex, race, age, disability, color, creed, national origin or religion. Many state laws also give certain protected groups special protection against harassment and discrimination, as do many employer policies. Although it is not required by federal law, employer policies may also protect employees from harassment or discrimination based on marital status or sexual orientation.
Where discrimination on the basis of protected group status is concerned, a single act of discrimination may be based on membership in more than one protected group. For example, discrimination based on antisemitism may relate to religion, national origin, or both; discrimination against a pregnant woman might be based on sex, marital status, or both.