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What Is the Meaning of Disparate Impact?

Workplace discrimination can be overt and intentional, as in cases of disparate treatment, but it is no less harmful when it manifests itself in more subtle and unintentional ways, as in cases of disparate impact. California companies that apply policies and procedures that seem to be nondiscriminatory but actually have an adverse impact upon persons within a particular group are liable for the harm caused to them. This kind of disparate impact discrimination at your place of employment is unlawful and may give rise to a claim for relief and compensation.

In California, according to California Civil Jury Instruction 2502, a claim for disparate impact requires that you either worked for an employer with a discriminatory practice or you applied for a job with an employer that had a discriminatory hiring policy. Disparate impact, however, is incomplete unless you were harmed and the policy or practice factored into causing that harm in a major way.

A company practice or policy that is discriminatory is also one that affects a protected class of persons. A class of persons is considered protected if California state law prohibits discrimination on the basis of that class characteristic. For example, persons with a certain color of hair may be lawfully discriminated against because persons of a particular natural hair color are in an unprotected class. On the other hand, persons over the age of 40 may not be discriminated against because they constitute a protected class in California. Every person is a member of one or more protected classes.

This information is provided for educational purposes, and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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