WLAD (Washington Law Against Discrimination): What You Need to Know

Washington Employment attorneys help those who encounter discriminatory employment practices.  

Many protections exist for Americans navigating the workforce with disabilities or specific distinguishing characteristics such as race, religious beliefs, and gender.

In Washington, workers are protected by both national and state employment laws. National employment laws include the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The state employment law is the WLAD, or the Washington Law Against Discrimination. 

The Washington Law Against Discrimination protects people with disabilities or other defined characteristics against unfair employment practices. An overview of what you need to know about the WLAD is provided below:   

WLAD Defined

WLAD is a Washington state law prohibiting employment practices that discriminate against people based on specific characteristics, disabilities, and impairments. 

The characteristics falling under the protection of WLAD include:

  • Age 
  • Sex 
  • Sexual orientation 
  • Gender identity
  • Pregnancy 
  • Marital status
  • Disability
  • Use of a trained guide dog or service animal by a person with a disability
  • Race, creed, color, and national origin 
  • Citizenship or immigration status 
  • Honorably discharged veteran or military status 

Some exceptions to these characteristics apply. 

How Does WLAD Define Disability and Impairment?

WLAD protects individuals with mental, physical, or sensory disabilities or impairments against discrimination by Washington employers. 

Defined broadly, WLAD cites “disability” as a condition

  • perceived to exist, whether or not it actually does exist, or 
  • existing as a record or history, or
  • medically cognizable or diagnosable.

Further, the disability may be common or uncommon, mitigated or unmitigated, or temporary or permanent. 

Individuals suffering impairments also receive protection under WLAD, with impairment defined as any 

  • traumatic, psychological, mental, or developmental disorder  
  • cosmetic disfigurement or anatomical loss affecting one or more body systems

Neither an individual’s disability nor impairment need interfere with their ability to generally work or specifically perform the tasks of a particular job.

What Washington Employers Are Subject to WLAD?

Washington’s Law Against Discrimination applies to employers with at least eight employees, including:

  • public employers 
  • private employers 
  • labor unions
  • employment agencies

Under WLAD, these employers may not engage in unfair employment practices. 

While sectarian organizations and nonprofit religious organizations should ethically and legally meet the same standards as listed businesses and organizations, they are exempt from WLAD as are private employers with fewer than eight employees. 

WLAD and Washington Employment Lawyers

Have you been unfairly discriminated against? Have you been refused employment or treated differently as an employee because of a disability?

Were you asked inappropriate questions related to your age or sexual orientation on a job application or in a job interview? 

Perhaps you have been refused labor union membership or equal membership rights due to a distinguishing characteristic or impairment?

Unfortunately, discrimination and unfair practices occur all too often in the workplace. If you have experienced any of the above issues, a Washington employment attorney well-versed in national, state, and local anti-discrimination laws can help. 

Contact our legal team today. We will assess your situation, explain the protections afforded under the law, and strategize with you regarding your goals and potential outcomes.