Workplace discrimination occurs more frequently than most people realize. This is because not all discrimination is blatant. In fact, a lot of workplace discrimination is cloaked in actions that may seem neutral on their face. This is the case when it comes to disparate impact discrimination.
What is disparate impact discrimination?
Disparate impact discrimination occurs when a policy or practice that seems appropriate on its face ends up disproportionately affecting people in a specific protected class. For example, a policy limiting the applicants for a job to those who can lift a certain amount of weight might negatively impact female applicants more than male applicants. Another example would be a policy that prohibits wearing headdresses when there are a significant number of Muslim employees who would be negatively impacted.
The most common defense to disparate impact claims
Disparate impact claims are almost always built on statistics, but employers can successfully defend themselves even when the statistics aren’t in their favor. This is usually accomplished by arguing that the policy or practice is question is necessary for business operations. Looking at the lifting requirement mentioned above, if the employer is a warehouse, then it can pretty easily claim that it needs its workers to be able to lift heavy objects in order to operate appropriately. This means that a disparate impact claim needs to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis with close attention to the context of the policy at hand.
Know how to navigate your employment law issues
Matters involving employment law can be highly complex, and the implications of a mishandled case can be severe. This is especially true for small businesses. So, if you’re facing employment law issues, or you simply want to avoid them in the future, then we encourage you to read up on this area of the law and be proactive in defending your interests.