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Photo of Michelle Cohen Levy

Discrimination can also be indirect

On Behalf of | May 12, 2024 | Workplace Discrimination |

The most notable forms of workplace discrimination tend to be direct. Direct discrimination occurs when an individual is treated unfavorably due to a protected characteristic such as race, religion or gender. 

Nonetheless, not all discrimination is direct. Indirect discrimination can also put certain employees at a disadvantage. The difference between direct and indirect discrimination is that the latter does not directly target individuals but applies to everyone. This discrimination occurs when a group of people with protected characteristics feel adverse effects of the workplace policies or procedures. 

Outlined below are some examples of indirect discrimination

Religious examples 

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives all citizens the right to practice any religion. No unjust measures should be taken to prevent this, and this includes in the workplace. Indirect discrimination often occurs due to workplace schedules. For example, if an employer only allows a limited number of breaks at certain times, this may impact those of a certain religion more than others due to obligatory prayers. 

Indirect religious discrimination also frequently occurs with workplace dress codes. For example, an employee may ban all forms of headwear and jewelry. For many employees, this may not make much of a difference. However, for those who wear such garments as part of their faith, this could amount to discrimination.

Pregnancy examples

Pregnant workers have a host of legal protections. For instance, an employer cannot fire someone for becoming pregnant and they cannot deny pregnant job seekers access to employment. Unfortunately, some employers attempt to discriminate based on pregnancy via indirect means. This is often done by setting work schedules for all employees that put pregnant workers at a disadvantage in terms of seeking medical care, breastfeeding and taking maternity leave. 

Indirect discrimination can be hard to define, but if you are being treated differently than your coworkers, discrimination may apply. Seeking legal guidance will give you a better idea of where you stand.