Attorneys at Law

Be Informed.

Be informed.

What Does Disparate Impact Mean in Employment Discrimination?

Victims of discrimination in the workplace should consult with a Conshohocken employment attorney for help pursuing a claim for damages.   In some cases, discrimination is obvious and an employer clearly treats job candidates or employees differently because of their race, gender, religion, national origin, color, disability status, age, or other protected status. In other situations, however, discrimination may be more difficult to identify and more difficult to prove. One example is when an employer has job requirements or conducts testing which seems neutral on its face, but which actually has the effect of disqualifying more people of a protected class. 

Because it can sometimes be a challenge to determine if illegal discrimination is occurring or not, it is a good idea for anyone who suspects wrongdoing in the workplace to consult with an attorney and find out if an employer is violating the rules. Contact Curley & Rothman, LLC to speak with an employment attorney serving clients in Conshohocken and surrounding areas of Pennsylvania. Our attorneys can evaluate whether you have a discrimination case and can provide invaluable assistance in proving that discrimination has affected your employment opportunities.

What Does Disparate Impact Mean?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act are all federal laws aimed at protecting workers. There are also state anti-discrimination laws applicable to businesses throughout PA.  These laws prohibit employers from discriminating in hiring, firing, and terms and conditions of employment based on protected status (which includes things like race, age, gender, religion, and national origin).

If an employer imposes job requirements, pre-employment tests, or other criteria for hiring or promotion, it is important that the employer make sure the testing either has a bona fide occupational purpose, is non-discriminatory, or both. If the test has the effect of disqualifying many people from a protected class, it can be considered a form of disparate impact discrimination.

Not all pre-employment testing or employment testing is unlawful, even if it has a disparate impact. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) provides details on the types of employment tests which are common. These include:

  • Cognitive tests to determine skills and knowledge
  • Tests of physical ability, such as measuring strength and stamina
  • Tests to determine if you can do specific job tasks, such as simulations or work samples
  • Medical exams, including physical and psychological exams
  • Personality and integrity tests to assess your disposition and the likelihood of engaging in particular behaviors
  • Criminal background checks to determine if you've violated the law
  • Credit checks to assess financial fitness
  • Performance appraisals to measure job performance
  • Language proficiency tests to determine fluency in English or other languages

If these tests are necessary to determine whether someone is actually capable of doing the job or not, then it is permissible for an employer to use them... even if it means more people of a particular age, religion, gender, or other protected status are not able to get a job or promotion.

However, it is up to the employer to prove that a test with a disparate impact has a bona fide relationship to the job requirements. In other words, the employer has to prove that the discriminatory test is really necessary- otherwise the employer can be held responsible for disparate impact discrimination.

It is important to realize that there is no intent requirement in disparate impact cases because the focus is on whether the testing has disparate consequences.

Disparate impact cases can be complicated because the discrimination is not as clear or straightforward as when an employer blatantly makes decisions based on protected status. An experienced employment attorney can help to obtain aggregate test results and other employment data that is necessary to make a successful disparate impact case. An attorney can also provide assistance in determining if the testing is justified as a result of a bona fide relationship between the testing and fitness for the particular job.

How Can an Employment Attorney Help in Disparate Impact Cases?

If you believe you were the victim of disparate impact discrimination or if your company is being accused of disparate impact discrimination, you should take prompt action to protect your rights.

A Conshohocken employment attorney at Curley & Rothman, LLC can provide you with invaluable assistance throughout your disparate impact case. Give us a call at 610-834-8819 or contact us today to schedule your consultation and learn more about how we can help with claims arising from allegations that job testing or criteria has a disparate and discriminatory impact.

Employment LawScott Rothman