Terms You Should Know about Discrimination


Adverse (or Disparate) Impact

a term used to describe a substantially different rate of selection in hiring, promotion, transfer, training or in other employment decisions, which works to the disadvantage of the members of the protected group or gender.

Affected Class

one or more employees, former employees, or applicants who have been denied employment benefits because of discriminatory practices and/or policies by an employer, its employees or agents.

Affirmative Action

a set of specific and result-oriented procedures to which an employer makes a commitment to apply a good faith effort for achievement of established goals. Specifically, any program, practice, or activity which is designed to do any or all of the following:

  • remove artificial barriers to the employment of any protected group or category of persons
  • eliminate non-job related personnel practices or to increase the job relatedness of current personnel practices
  • enhance the opportunities of subparity groups to compete for employment within the organization


hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.


refers to the percentage of minorities or women in a specific geographic area who have the requisite skills or who are capable of acquiring the requisite skills necessary to perform a particular job.

Bridge Class

a job classification specifically designed to provide training or experience which will facilitate advancement from one type of occupation to another that has greater advancement opportunities.

Business Necessity

justification for an otherwise prohibited employment practice based on an employer's proof that: (1) the employment practice is essential for the safety and efficiency of the business, and (2) there is no reasonable alternative with a lesser impact on protected classes.


any physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life functions; such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, breathing, seeing, hearing, learning, or working. This term includes but is not limited to diseases, physical conditions and learning disabilities.

Disabled Individual

a person is considered to have a disability if he or she has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity (e.g. seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, caring for one's self, or working.)


an act that is committed on the basis of prejudice or bias. Unlawful discrimination generally refers to any employment practice or decision that intentionally or unintentionally results in the unequal treatment of an individual or group on a basis of their protected status (i.e. age physical ability/qualities, age, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.)

Disparate (or Differential) Treatment

a theory of discrimination in which an individual is treated less favorably than his/her similarly situated peers because of gender, race, etc.


the range of dimensions which describe human differences. The primary dimensions of diversity are age, physical abilities/qualities, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.

Environmental Racism

addresses the fact that poor people, but specifically communities of color, are disproportionately impacted by pollution, waste disposal, hazardous sites, resource depletion, and natural disasters.

Equal Employment Opportunity

refers to a body of laws which requires all employers to allow all persons to work and advance on the basis of merit, ability, and potential without regard to race, color, religion, national origin/ancestry, age (40 and above), marital status, gender, disability, certain medical conditions, sexual orientation or other unalterable condition.

Ethnic Group

individuals classed according to common traits, traditions, and customs. The ethnic group which most closely reflects the individual's recognition in his/or her community should be used for reporting purposes.

Goals and Timetables

quantitative and qualitative goals which are flexible and are to be achieved within the framework of equal employment opportunity and affirmative action. Quantitative (numerical) goals represent a commitment to achieve gender/ethnic balance at all levels in the workforce within a certain time period. Qualitative goals represent a commitment to remove causes of under-representation and eliminate all personnel policies, procedures, and practices which are not job-related and have an adverse impact on the employment and retention of protected classes.


refers to unfounded fear of and hostility towards Islam. Such fear and hostility leads to discriminations against Muslims, exclusion of Muslims from mainstreams political or social process, stereotyping, the presumption of guilt by association, and hate crimes.

Job Group

a group of job titles categorized together based on similar job content, experience, preparation, wage rates, and promotional opportunities.

Labor Force

Generally defined by the US Department of Commerce as all civilians 16 years old and over who were employed at the time of the Census, or who were unemployed but looking for work, or available to accept a job.

Managing and Valuing Diversity

recognizing and appreciating that individuals are different, that diversity is an advantage if it is valued and well managed, and that diversity is not to be simply tolerated but encouraged, supported and nurtured.


those people who are protected by State and Federal law as a member of the following groups: Black, Hispanic, Asian or Pacific Islander, and American Indian or Alaskan Native.

Non-Job-Related Barriers

employment requirements and practices which are not significantly related to job performance, i.e., non-merit factors in the selection process.

Outreach Recruitment

a concentrated effort by an employer to attract applicants from those groups which are underrepresented in a given job classification or category. A desired result of such recruitment is a diverse group of applicants who must then compete on an equal footing with all other applicants.

Present Effects of Past Discrimination

a theory of discrimination in which a present practice, most commonly a seniority system of one form or another, perpetuates past discriminatory practices.

Protected Class

Classes or groups of people protected by the Federal and State Equal Opportunity Laws. Examples of these classes and groups are Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, American Indians, women of all races, persons with disabilities, disabled and Vietnam-era veterans, people who are age 40 and above, and a person's actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Reasonable Accommodation

an adaptation or adjustment made by an employer which enables an individual to perform the job. An accommodation is reasonable if it does not impose an undue hardship on the employer's business. An employer is expected to make a reasonable effort to accommodate individuals with disabilities as well as those whose religious beliefs would otherwise prohibit them from performing the duties of the job. Reasonable accommodation can include, but is not limited to changing the job duties, changing the work shift, accommodating to schedules, relocating the work area, and providing mechanical and electric aids. However, the employer is not required to provide the exact accommodation requested by the employee, to create a new job, or lessen the standards for performance of a job.

Religious Discrimination

an employment rule or policy that requires an individual to either abandon a fundamental precept of his/her religion or to relinquish an employment opportunity. Employers are required by law to make reasonable efforts to accommodate religious needs of the employees and applicants.

Sexual Harassment

unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment often includes making or threatening reprisals after a negative response to sexual advances or offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors. Hostile Work Environment sexual harassment is generally behavior that unreasonably interferes with a person's ability to perform their job and does not necessarily involve employment benefits.

Subparity Group

any protected group having significantly lower representation in a particular occupational category or job classification than its level of availability.

Systemic Discrimination

employment policies or practices that serve to differentiate or to perpetuate a differentiation in terms or conditions of employment of applicants or employees because of their status as members of a particular group. Such policies or practices may or may not be facially neutral, and intent to discriminate may or may not be involved. Systemic discrimination, sometimes called class discrimination or a pattern and practice of discrimination, concerns recurring practices or continuing policy rather than an isolated act of discrimination.


having fewer protected class employees in a job classification than would be reasonably expected by their availability in the relevant labor force.

Workforce Diversity

a workforce that consists of individuals who bring different experiences and perspectives to the workplace and who have distinctive needs, preferences, expectations, and lifestyles. Employees represent differences that are associated with such characteristics as ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientations, and disabilities. Other differences include nationality, cultural heritage, personal background, functional experience, and position in the organization.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Council on American-Islamic Relations