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What is "disparate impact" under employment law?

Workers in Michigan are afforded certain rights under state and federal law. These laws are in place to provide protection when seeking a job, when employed, and if they are terminated. An example of a law protecting employee rights that many workers are unaware of refers to disparate impact. According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, workers are protected from employers using certain selection procedures or neutral tests that will exclude people in a disproportionate fashion based on their national origin, sex, religion, color or race. If the tests or procedures that are utilized have no connection to the job nor are consistent with the needs of the business, this is called disparate impact discrimination.

In general, there will be numerous factors when it comes to lodging a claim of disparate impact. If the employer has a certain practice that is based on the above listed factors, it can be applicable to complain under the law. For example, if the employer has a requirement that all employees must pass a test based on physical abilities, it might disproportionately exclude a segment of the job-seeking public who cannot perform the tasks even if they are able to do the job as it is needed. Statistical analysis is used to determine whether a certain group is being excluded by this procedure.

The employer must be able to show that the selection process is linked to the requirements of the job before implementing religious, gender-based, racial and national origin rules before hiring someone. If safety and efficiency are part of the process and workers can be eliminated due to that, the standard can be met. If a prospective employee is able to show that the selection process can be adhered to if there is a less discriminatory alternative to decide whether or not the worker is suitable for the job and the employer refuses to accept a different test or some other method of screening, then the law will be violated under disparate impact.

Prospective employees who are not able to get a job for which they are otherwise qualified need to be aware of the law regarding disparate impact. Speaking to a legal professional who is experienced in workplace discrimination can help a person achieve justice if their civil rights have been violated in this way.

Source: eeoc.gov, "Employment Tests and Selection Procedures -- Governing EEO Laws," accessed on Nov. 17, 2015

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