What is Discrimination Law?
The area of practice called discrimination law covers incidents of unequal or unfair treatment based on a person's age, disability, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic makeup, and other personal characteristics. Individuals who possess one of these personal characteristics are said to belong to a "protected class." Discrimination may occur in many different aspects of everyday life, such as applying for a job; obtaining a loan or mortgage; being passed over for a promotion at work; attempting to rent an apartment; and being unable to access a store or restaurant due to a disability.
A combination of federal and state anti-discrimination laws govern which classes of individuals are protected and in what way. Where federal and state laws differ, individuals are covered by the jurisdiction that offers the most protection.
Terms to Know
- Disparate Impact: An unintentional discriminatory effect on a protected class caused by a practice or policy that appears to be nondiscriminatory.
- Protected Class: A group of people intended by a legislature to benefit from the protection of a statute.
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): The EEOC is a part of the federal government, responsible for investigating and hearing claims of workplace discrimination or harassment
Which Type of Lawyer to Call for a Discrimination Claim
In many cases, particularly with respect to employment, individuals who are discriminated against may file lawsuits. The type of attorney needed for such a claim often depends on the context of the discrimination, such as whether it happened at work, a bank, or a restaurant.
- Employment Discrimination - Employee-side employment law attorneys will be able to help you file a lawsuit, but you must first file a complaint with the EEOC. See Discriminatory Practices to learn more. Sexual harassment in the workplace is considered a form of gender discrimination.
- Housing Discrimination - Landlords certainly may discriminate against individuals with a criminal history or poor credit rating. But basing rental or housing decisions on race or other characteristics is strictly prohibited. Landlords also must make reasonable accommodations for disabled tenants. Contact a landlord-tenant lawyer in your area if you need help.
- Financial Discrimination - Consider speaking with a consumer protection attorney (and filing a consumer complaint) if you believe you were denied a loan or charged a higher rate-regardless of your actual creditworthiness-due to your gender, race, or other protected characteristic.
- Disability Discrimination - The Americans with Disabilities Act covers discrimination in employment, education, housing, transportation, and access to public buildings and businesses. A civil rights attorney will be able to assist you with your claim or any questions you may have about disability discrimination.
Related Practice Areas
Make sure you know your rights and consider calling an attorney if you believe you were subject to discrimination.