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Race/Color

RCW 49.60 prohibits discrimination in employment, real estate, public accommodation, credit and insurance on the basis of race or race-linked characteristics such as color.  These prohibitions apply whether the discrimination is directed at Caucasians, Blacks, African Americans, Asians, Arabs, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, multi-racial individuals, or persons of any other race or color. 

Prohibitions against race discrimination include prohibitions against harassment based on race.  It also includes denying service or committing an act which results in any adverse distinction based on race or color at a place of public accommodation.  In credit, a refusal to grant or increase credit or the termination of a credit account due to race or color is discriminatory.  In real estate, the refusal to engage in or negotiate for a real estate transaction, or to expel from occupancy of real property because of a person’s race or color are discriminatory actions.  This includes the practice of “steering” a person of a particular race or color to a particular neighborhood.  In employment, decisions regarding hiring, firing, discipline, and promotion based on a person’s race or color are prohibited.  Subjecting someone to different terms and conditions of employment due to race or color is discriminatory. 

 

Creed/Religion

RCW 49.60 prohibits discrimination in employment, real estate, public accommodation, credit and insurance on the basis of creed or religion.  Creed and religion are defined broadly and include observance, practice, and belief.  A religion is a belief system or institution relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity.  Creed includes those sincere and meaningful beliefs that occupy in the life of that individual a place parallel to that of God or a divine being in a traditional Western religion.  The beliefs can include sincerely held moral and ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong, and beliefs that address ultimate ideas, or questions about life, purpose, and death.  For example, Wiccan is a belief that is religious in nature because the belief relates to “ultimate” issues and a moral concern about improving the quality of life for others.  However, membership in the Ku Klux Klan is not a religion or creed and is instead considered an ideology. 
-           A person does not have to be part of an organization or church to have a creed or religion.   
-           Someone from a particular religion may adhere to different practices and beliefs than someone else in the same religion. 
-           Someone who was not religious at one point, may become religious.
-           People can choose what religion they belong to.

It is discriminatory to treat someone differently or unfairly due to creed or religion. 
It is discriminatory to harass someone based on creed or religion.  Likewise, an employer or manager who holds religious beliefs cannot treat an employee differently or poorly because that employee does not share their religious beliefs or creed, and cannot make any employment decision based on the fact that the employee does not share their religious beliefs.  However, there are special exemptions for religiously controlled nonprofit employers.    

In an employment situation, an employer must provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s sincerely held religious belief that conflicts with a workplace rule.  Note that this type of reasonable accommodation is not the same as that for disability.   The employer’s burden is lower.

 

National Origin

RCW 49.60 prohibits discrimination in employment, real estate, public accommodation, credit and insurance on the basis of national origin.  This prohibition is in place regardless of the person’s citizenship.  National origin discrimination means treating someone less favorably because he or she comes from a certain place or country, because of ethnicity or ancestry, or, in many cases, because of accent or the person’s primary language.  National origin discrimination also includes perceived national origin, i.e. discrimination against a Latino/a individual because an employer assumes he or she is Mexican. 

Employment decisions including hiring, firing, promotions, and discipline based on national origin are prohibited.  Subjecting someone to different terms and conditions of employment due to national origin is prohibited.  Harassment based on national origin is prohibited.  An English fluency requirement for a job is permissible only when it is required for the effective performance of the job, when there is a business necessity.  English-only rules in the workplace may only be implemented if the rule is necessary for safe operation in the job and for direct customer service to people who speak English.  This would not include lunches, breaks, social chit-chat, etc. 

 

Families with Children Status

RCW 49.60 prohibits discrimination in real estate on the basis of family with children status.  Family with children status is defined as one or more individuals who have not attained 18 years being domiciled with a parent or another person having legal custody of such individual or individuals, or with the designee of such parent or other person having legal custody with the written permission of such parent or other person.  Family with children status also applies to any person who is pregnant or is in the process of securing legal custody of an individual who has not attained the age of 18 years. 

 

Sex

RCW 49.60 prohibits discrimination in employment, real estate, public accommodation, credit and insurance on the basis of sex.  Prohibitions include treating an individual differently based on his or her sex, making employment decisions based on sex, and harassing an individual based on sex.  Sexual harassment in the workplace can include the demand for sexual favors in exchange for favorable employment conditions as well as creating a hostile working environment for an individual because of that individual’s sex.  Sexual harassment can be directed toward someone of the same sex or the opposite sex as the harasser. 

Sex discrimination includes discrimination against women on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, pregnancy related conditions, and the potential to become pregnant. 

The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women be paid equally for doing equal work.  However, this statute is not enforced by the WSHRC.  The Equal Pay Act is administered and enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

 

Marital Status

RCW 49.60 prohibits discrimination in employment, real estate, credit and insurance on the basis of marital status.  Marital status is defined as the legal status of being married, single, separated, divorced or widowed. 

 

Age

RCW 49.60 protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. These protections apply to current employees and job applicants.  It is unlawful to discriminate against a person because his or her age is 40 or over with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training. 

 

Disability

RCW 49.60 prohibits discrimination in employment, real estate, public accommodation, credit and insurance on the basis of disability.  Disability is defined in RCW 49.60.040 as the presence of a sensory, mental, or physical impairment that is medically cognizable or diagnosable, or exists as a record or history, or is perceived to exist.  Impairment includes any physiological disorder, or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems:  neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory, including speech organs, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitor-urinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin and endocrine; or any mental, developmental, traumatic, or psychological disorder, including but not limited to cognitive limitation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.  A disability exists whether it is temporary or permanent, common or uncommon, mitigated or unmitigated, or whether or not it limits the ability to work generally or work at a particular job, or whether or not it limits any other activity within the scope of RCW 49.60. 

The definition of disability under RCW 49.60 is different than the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) definition of disability. 

Disability discrimination can include harassment of an individual based on that individual’s disability, subjecting a person to different terms and conditions of employment due to the person’s disability, having barriers that prohibit or limit access to a place of public accommodation, and failing to provide reasonable accommodation to an individual with a disability. 

For the purposes of qualifying for reasonable accommodation in employment, an impairment must be known or shown through an interactive process to exist and (i) to have a substantially limiting effect on the employee’s ability to perform the job or apply for a job, or on the employee’s access to equal benefits, privileges or terms or conditions of employment; or (ii) that if the impairment is not accommodated there is a reasonable likelihood that engaging in a job function would aggravate the impairment to the extent that the impairment would have a substantially limiting effect.

 

Use of a Guide Dog or Service Animal

RCW 49.60 prohibits discrimination in employment, real estate, public accommodation, credit and insurance on the basis of the use of a guide dog or service animal.  A guide dog is a dog that is trained for the purpose of guiding blind persons or a dog that is trained for the purpose of assisting hearing impaired persons.  A service animal is an animal trained for the purpose of assisting or accommodating the sensory, mental, or physical disability of a person with a disability. 

The service animal does not need to be certified or to have professional training.  It does not need to wear a special jacket or have specific tags. 

 

HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis C Status

RCW 49.60 prohibits unfair practices in employment, real estate, public accommodation, credit and insurance with respect to actual or perceived HIV infection or actual or perceived Hepatitis C infection, perceived susceptibility to HIV or Hepatitis C infection, or a positive test for HIV or Hepatitis C. 

No person may require an individual to take an HIV test as a condition of hiring, promotion, or continued employment, unless absence of HIV infection is a bona fide occupational qualification for the job in question.  

 

Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity

RCW 49.60 prohibits discrimination in employment, real estate, public accommodation, credit and insurance on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Sexual orientation means heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and gender expression or identity.  Gender expression or identity means having or being perceived as having a gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression, whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the sex assigned to that person at birth. 

Prohibitions against discrimination apply regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. 

 

Honorably Discharged Veteran and Military Status

RCW 49.60 prohibits discrimination in employment, real estate, public accommodation, and credit on the basis of honorably discharged veteran or military status.  Honorably discharged veteran or military status means a person who is a veteran as defined in RCW 41.04.007 or is an active or reserve member in any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, including the National Guard, Coast Guard, and the Armed Forces Reserve. 

 

Retaliation

It is an unfair practice under RCW 49.60 to discriminate against any person because he or she has opposed any practices forbidden by RCW 49.60, or because he or she has filed a charge, testified, or assisted any proceedings under RCW 49.60.  The law prohibits an adverse action against an individual because he or she engaged in such a protected activity. 

 

State Employee Whistleblower Retaliation

A whistleblower is a state employee who in good faith reports alleged improper governmental action to the State Auditor’s Office, initiating a whistleblower investigation under RCW 42.40.040.  Whistleblower also means a state employee who in good faith provides information to the State Auditor’s Office in connection with a whistleblower investigation; a state employee who is believed to have reported asserted improper governmental action to the State Auditor’s Office but in fact has not reported such action; a state employee who in good faith identifies rules warranting review or provides information to the Rules Review Committee; or a state employee who is believed to have identified rules warranting review or to have provided information to the Rules Review Committee, but who in fact has not done so. 

RCW 42.40.050 prohibits workplace reprisal or retaliatory action in state employment on the basis of whistleblower status.  The WSHRC has authority to investigate claims of state employee whistleblower retaliation.