Disparate Treatment Versus Disparate Impact


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When trying to be sure the organization does not have any discriminatory policies or actions, HR professionals have a big task.

One area many organizations get tripped up on is unintentional discrimination. At the end of the day, discrimination is still discrimination, even if it’s not intentional—and as such, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) specifically notes that discrimination that occurs based on having a negative impact on a specific group (even when that was only a by-product of the situation) is still illegal. This is what is known as disparate impact. We’ll take a look at that, and then we’ll compare it to the other related type of discrimination: disparate treatment.

Defining ‘Disparate Impact’

“Disparate impact” is what occurs when an organization’s actions, policies, or some other aspect of their processes inadvertently result in discrimination against people who are in a protected class[i]. This happens when one or more protected groups are negatively impacted more so than other groups, even though the policy, action, or item in question would otherwise appear to be neutral. What matters is the outcome, not the intent. The policy or action could appear to be completely neutral but still have a disparate impact when implemented.

For example, written

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