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What is disparate impact, and how does it affect me?

No one wants to face discrimination in their California workplace, but sometimes you find yourself dealing with a hard situation where your employer or coworkers has taken unfair action against you in ways that affect you as a member of a class protected by race, creed, religion, sexuality, gender, gender identity, disability or several other factors. Sometimes these offenses are blatant, but sometimes they arise because a seemingly fair policy actually has a negative effect on you. When this happens, it is called disparate impact.

According to the California Department of Rehabilitation, disparate impact involves an employment practice that is defined as technically neutral and yet, in execution, enforces an environment in which unfairness or workplace discrimination can take place. The reason it is called "disparate impact" is because it has a negative impact on a protected class that is unjustified by the policy itself or any California law.

An example of disparate impact can include an employer's dress code. If an employer prevents employees from wearing head coverings in the workplace, this can have a disparate impact on employees whose faith or creed mandates that they wear head coverings, wraps or scarves. Another instance would be an employer having specific height and weight requirements for a job despite height and weight not significantly impacting the employee's ability to do the job. If a prospective hire proves he or she can meet the requirements of the job without fitting the height and weight standards, if he or she is denied employment that may be disparate impact.

This post is intended as an informational and educational reference that does not stand as a substitute for legal advice.

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