Discrimination 201: Intent to Discriminate Not Necessary

By | 2017-01-13T13:41:59+00:00 April 2nd, 2014|Categories: Respectful Workplace|Tags: |Comments Off on Discrimination 201: Intent to Discriminate Not Necessary

There are certainly cases where an employer intentionally discriminates based on some kind of animus: racism, sexism, bias against a particular religion, etc. But there are also case where employers discriminate without any such intent. Alas, the discrimination is just as illegal. Take customer preference, as an example. A customer or client tells an employer they do not want

[insert protected category here – e.g., women, Hispanics, Muslims] working on their account.

Can the employer legally honor the customer request? No. Period.

I recently delivered discrimination training to a group of (mostly male) executives. One asked a great question: his wife does not want him traveling with other women on business. Is it ok if he only brings male employees on business trips? I hope you can guess the answer (no!). Simply put, spousal preference is not a legitimate reason to discriminate. The fact that the executive bears no ill will towards female employees is of no consequence. By honoring his wife’s preference, he would be denying women advancement opportunities. And that would be just as illegal as refusing advancement opportunities to women based on his belief that they are inferior.

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive articles like this and more by email.Sign up now
Learn more about our employee surveys, customized training, keynote speakers, and coaching.Learn more

About the Author:

Sindy Warren
Sindy Warren is the principal of Warren & Associates LLC and an Associate Partner of Legacy Business Cultures. She is an HR and employment law consultant and uses her legal expertise to help clients create and maintain positive and legally compliant employment practices. Sindy creates and delivers training programs on harassment and discrimination and conducts independent workplace investigations. Sindy received her J.D. with honors from Stanford University. She received her B.S. in Psychology from Tufts University (Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude).