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Definitions of Discrimination

Protected Classes

Protected Classes. Characteristics or groups of persons protected from discrimination by law, including:

  1. Race.  Discrimination laws do not contain a definition of “race,” but are interpreted to prohibit discrimination on the basis of ancestry or physical or cultural characteristics associated with a certain race, such as skin color, hair texture or styles, or certain facial features, and on the basis of stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals of certain racial groups. All individuals, including persons of more than one race and the following racial classifications, are protected from discrimination: 
    • Black: All persons having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa including, but not limited to, African-Americans, and all persons having origins in any of the original peoples of the Cape Verdean Islands. 

    • White (not of Hispanic origin): Persons having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East.

    •  Hispanic/Latino: All persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central, Latin or South American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.  

    • Asian or Pacific Islander: All persons having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent or the Pacific Islands, including, for example, the areas of China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands and Samoa.

    • American Indian or Alaskan Native: All persons having origins in any of the original peoples of North America, and who maintain cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.

  2. Color.  Variations in skin tone among persons of the same race.
  3. Religion.  “Religion” and “creed” have the same or equivalent meaning: all religious and spiritual observances, practices, and sincerely held beliefs.
  4. National Origin.   A “national origin group” or “ethnic group” is a group sharing a common language, culture, ancestry, and/or other similar social characteristics.
  5. Persons of Color.   Members of the following racial classifications: Black, American Indian/Native Alaskan, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latino.
  6. Age.   For employment purposes, persons 40 years of age or older. For the purposes of access to and participation in University programs and services, all persons of all ages are protected on the basis of age.
  7. Disability.   A person with a disability is one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such impairment.
  8. Gender.   A person’s sex (female or male). “Gender” and “sex” may be used interchangeably for the purposes of the EO Plan.
  9. Gender Identity.   Gender identity is a person’s internal view of the individual’s gender.“Gender identity” covers a multitude of sexual identities including, but not limited to, male, female, and transgender or gender-nonconforming individuals, who are persons whose gender identity or gender presentation falls outside of stereotypical gender norms.
  10. Gender Expression.    Gender  expression  is  a term that  refers to  the  ways  in  which individuals manifest or express masculinity or femininity.  It refers to all of the external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions.
  11. Sexual Orientation.  Actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, either by orientation or by practice.
  12. Genetic Information.   Any written, recorded individually identifiable result of a genetic test or explanation of such a result or family history pertaining to the presence, absence, variation, alteration, or modification of a human gene or genes.
  13. Marital/Parental Status.   A person’s status as single, married, parent or non-parent, where discrimination  on  these  bases  has  disparately  impacted  against  those  of   different protected classes, including gender and sexual orientation.
  14. Veteran Status.    Any person who is a member of, applies to perform, or has an obligation to perform, service in a uniformed military service of the United States,  including the National Guard. Discrimination


Discrimination.   An intentional or unintentional act that adversely affects employment and/or educational opportunities because of a person’s membership in a protected class or association with a member(s) of a protected class.

Discriminatory Harassment

Discriminatory harassment.  A form of unlawful discrimination including verbal and/or physical conduct based on legally protected characteristics and/or membership in a protected class that:

1.   has the purpose or effect of creating an objectively intimidating, hostile or offensive work or educational environment;

2.   has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or educational opportunities; or

3.   otherwise unreasonably adversely affects an individual’s employment or educational opportunities.

Reasonable directions or warnings by authorized University personnel as to the time, place and manner in which employees perform their assigned responsibilities, students carry out their educational assignments or program participants engage in sponsored activities do not constitute evidence of discriminatory harassment under this Policy.

For purposes of this Plan, unwelcome conduct constitutes hostile environment harassment when:

  • it is targeted against a person on the basis of his/her membership in a protected class;


  • it is sufficiently severe or pervasive that it alters the conditions of education or
  • employment and creates an environment that a reasonable person would find intimidating, hostile or offensive;  OR
  • submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or
  • condition of an individual’s employment or education;  OR

The determination of whether an environment is “hostile” is based on the totality of the circumstances. These circumstances could include the frequency of the conduct, its severity, and whether it is threatening or humiliating. Simple teasing, offhand comments and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not amount to hostile environment harassment under this Plan.

For emphasis, conduct that is not based on a person’s membership in a protected class is not considered hostile under this Plan.


Retaliation.  Taking adverse employment or educational action against a person who: (a) files claims, complaints or charges under this Plan, or under applicable local, state or federal statute; (2)  is suspected  of  having  filed  such  claims,  complaints  or  charges;  (3)  has  assisted  or participated in an investigation or resolution of such claims, complaints or charges; or, (4) has protested practices alleged to be violative of the non-discrimination policies of the University, the BHE, or local, state or federal regulation or statute.   Retaliation, even in the absence of provable discrimination in the original complaint or charge, constitutes as serious a violation of this Plan as proved discrimination under the original claim, complaint or charge.