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What is 'disparate impact?'

Intentionally discriminating against someone at his or her place of employment is against federal and state laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, what if a person is discriminated against at work, but the employer did not have any intention of discriminating? Is that illegal?

When an employment practice is not intended to discriminate but has a negative impact on protected classes of employees, it is said to have a "disparate impact." With some exceptions, this is still illegal.

The first time that the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue of disparate impact involved an employer requiring a high school diploma when screening labor applicants. While the employer was not trying to be discriminatory by requiring a high school education, it excluded many more African-American applicants than Caucasian ones. In order for an employer to prove that no disparate impact existed, it is required to prove that the requirement or employment practice is related to the job and that is needed for the business.

Proving that you have been discriminated against due to disparate impact can be very difficult because there isn't a specific test or threshold for it. Each claim has to be decided on its own merits.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against, you should look into your legal options. A New York attorney who is experienced in employment law can help you determine if the disparate impact was a result of a discriminatory practice. Then he or she can provide you with the possible options that are applicable to your particular case.

Source: FindLaw, "Disparate Impact Discrimination," accessed May 30, 2016

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