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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).

The EEOC encourages employers to raise in their position statements any factual or legal defenses that they believe are applicable. The EEOC carefully evaluates any asserted defenses, including those based on religion, status as a Tribal entity or bona fide private membership club, or other defenses at any time during the EEOC’s administrative process.

Read more about the coverage requirements for:

See also:

If an employer has the required number of employees, you are protected by the anti-discrimination laws if you are:

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

Age or Disability & Coverage

If your complaint involves discrimination because of your age or disability, you must meet other requirements in order 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. employers 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 are not sure whether you are covered, you should contact the EEOC as soon as possible for more information.