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An employer must have a certain number of employees to be covered by the laws we enforce. This number varies depending on the type of employer (for example, whether the employer is a private company, a state or local government agency, a federal agency, an employment agency, or a labor union) and the kind of discrimination alleged (for example, discrimination based on a person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information).

Read about the coverage requirements for:

See also:

If an employer has the required number of employees, a person is protected by the anti-discrimination laws if he or she is:

  • An employee
  • A job applicant
  • A former employee
  • An applicant or participant in a training or apprenticeship program

Age or Disability & Coverage

If a complaint involves discrimination because of age or disability, other requirements must be met in order for a person to be covered.

Citizenship & Coverage

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin by smaller employers (with 4 to 14 employees). Employers with 4 or more employees (and recruiters and referrers for a fee) are also prohibited from discriminating on the basis of citizenship status; discriminating in the employment eligibility verification process; and retaliating under IRCA.

Discrimination charges under IRCA are processed by the Department of Justice, Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices:

1-800-255-7688 (voice for employees/applicants),
1-800-237-2515 (TTY for employees/applicants),
1-800-255-8155 (voice for employers), or
1-800-362-2735 (TTY for employers), or

Overseas & Coverage

American workers employed by U.S. companies overseas enjoy the same broad protections as workers in the U.S. That means protection under the anti-discrimination laws travels with the employee, so long as the employee is a U.S. citizen working for a U.S. company.

Deciding Who Is Covered

People who are not employed by the employer, such as independent contractors, are not covered by the anti-discrimination laws. Figuring out whether or not a person is an employee of an organization (as opposed to a contractor, for example) is complicated. If you aren't sure whether a person covered, you should contact one of our field offices as soon as possible so we can make that decision.