In many instances, workplace discrimination is obvious. Managers may make racially motivated employment decisions, disabled employees who report failures to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act may be retaliated against, and older workers and pregnant women may be passed over for promotions because of who they are.
Although some of these cases can be difficult to prove, there’s usually some evidence to suggest that intentional discrimination has actually occurred.
However, not all discrimination is so blatant. One type of discrimination that can be hard to perceive is known as disparate impact discrimination.
How does disparate impact work?
In situations where disparate impact discrimination occurs, a seemingly neutral workplace policy or practice ends up disproportionately affecting workers of a certain class. Although the effect of the policy may be unintentional, it’s still discriminatory and can cause significant harm to affected workers.
One example of a work requirement that may have a disparate impact is requiring workers to be able to lift a certain amount of weight. This policy may disproportionately affect women, although the employer may be able to get around that issue if it can show that the work requirement is necessary for the business’s operations.
Proving a disparate impact claim
Proving that disparate impact discrimination has occurred can be difficult, though it’s not impossible. If you think that your employer has implemented a policy that has disproportionately impacted those workers who fall into a protected class, then you might want to start by gathering information and statistics. That way you can demonstrate how the seemingly neutral policy worked in practice.
As you’re gathering that statistical evidence, though, you should try to anticipate how your employer will counter your arguments. It might claim that the way that you gathered the statistics was flawed or otherwise inaccurate, or it might try to minimize the impact that you’re trying to show. That’s why it might be beneficial for you to get accounts from your co-workers as to how, specifically, the policy in question has affected them and their employment.
Your disparate impact claim can be defeated by your employer if they can show that the policy or practice was necessary to further business operations. But even if your employer shows that, you can still succeed in your claim. At that point, you just have to show that your employer had the opportunity to implement an alternative, less discriminatory practice but chose not to. Of course, in order to prove this aspect of your case, you’re going to have to have knowledge of what your employer could have done and the potential impact of that alternative.
Are you ready to build your employment law case?
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into proving a disparate impact case. That means that if you want to be successful with your workplace discrimination case, then you need to be diligent in not only gathering evidence that supports your position, but also in understanding the law and how it applies to your set of circumstances.
If the thought of figuring that out on your own has you nervous, then you might take comfort in knowing that a competent legal team may be able to help. By working closely with one of these advocates, you may be able to find some accountability and recover the compensation that you deserve.