What Is Indirect Discrimination?

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Indirect discrimination is a discrete type of discrimination that involves a policy, rule or procedure that is applied to everyone in a certain area but, ultimately, puts some individuals or groups at a disadvantage. Just like direct discrimination, indirect discrimination can affect people of a certain religion, race, ethnic group or age. Indirect discrimination can be posed as a formal or informal rule, practice or policy that may control behavior or set standards in the workplace.

In contrast to direct discrimination, which may be easy to see, hear and identify, indirect discrimination is often more subtle. This type of discrimination may affect present and future actions. One example of indirect discrimination is a company setting a weekend work policy. The company may require employees to work certain times over the weekend; this request is considered neutral, as it applies to all employees. However, employees who practice certain religions may be unable to work the requisite weekend hours because of commitments to religious practices. These employees are then at a disadvantage in comparison to employees who are not bound by religious constraints. The discriminated-against employees may then lose the opportunity to work at the company based on their religious commitments.