There are numerous legitimate reasons why employees may need to let staff go. During periods of financial difficulty, for example, it may be necessary to downsize the company.
However, a dismissal often warrants further investigation. If you believe that a protected group to which you belong has been disproportionately affected by your employer’s actions, then you could be a victim of disparate discrimination.
The history of disparate discrimination
Before the introduction of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it was still commonplace for some organizations to openly discriminate against African Americans. Often, African Americans were only eligible for jobs with the lowest pay. After Title VII came into force, much of the blatant discrimination stopped.
However, some companies still implemented policies that were discriminatory in a more subtle way. Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971) is one famous example. There, the court deemed that requesting IQ tests from all employees was discriminatory because African Americans had not been provided with the same educational opportunities for such a long period and would, most likely, score lower than whites. Furthermore, this practice was deemed not to be a measure of any job-related skill. Hence, the courts adopted the “business necessity” rule. This meant that any policy with a discriminatory impact had to be based on job-related performance.
Proving disparate discrimination
There is no single test that governs what is classed as disparate discrimination. It can be as overt as a layoff that disproportionately affects employees over 45 years of age, or as subtle as grooming and dress code policies that adversely affect people of color.
Being aware of your legal rights can offer you protection from employment discrimination. Also, if you feel that you have been discriminated against, there are options open to you.