Direct vs indirect workplace discrimination

Direct discrimination

These are scenarios when an individual or a group of individuals at the workplace face discrimination directly based on protected characteristics. Discrimination can take many forms, like not getting selected at interviews, not being allowed certain services, or not getting opportunities or promotions.

Calling out some scenarios and examples:

  1. A Hospital hires only female nurses , with the bias that male employees cannot be as caring as females. This discrimination is based on sex.
  2. A female employee getting less challenging assignments at work post-marriage, since the employer assumes females post marriage will not be fully dedicated to work. The same doesn’t hold true for male employees.
  3. Employers refusing to give employment or firing someone based on caste, religious, or political beliefs.
  4. Employees from the LGBTQ community face discrimination owing to their sexual orientation.

Indirect discrimination

These are scenarios where laws are apparently the same for everyone, but in practicality, they seem to put certain segments at a disadvantage. This is a little more complex than direct, as employers might not be aware of some scenarios that might put certain sections at a disadvantage. Essentially, the concept of the same law applying to all can sometimes be a disadvantage for some. It’s like the “One Size does not fit all” verbiage. Some scenarios below can make this easy to visualise:

  1.  Employers are mandating some days as working days for employees. This can impact workers of some religions if the day clashes with holidays of their sects. Also imagine a scenario where, based on management directions, a section of employees is mandated to attend a training program that falls on some religious holidays.
  2. Designing Job descriptions for certain roles where some criteria like weight, height, English fluency, etc. are not really necessary qualifications.
  3. A retail outlet that has designed steps to get inside is basically discriminating against disabled and elderly customers and will not go well with that customer segment. While no written law states any restriction, a segment is impacted.
  4. A company cafeteria that serves only a certain type of food can put some segments at disadvantage and does not cater to diversity. For example, an office in North India serving only North Indian food will cause folks from South India to suffer, and vice versa.

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