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. Specific states can have their own unique discrimination laws.
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. For example:
- applying for a job
- obtaining a loan or mortgage
- being passed over for a promotion at work
- attempting to rent an apartment
- 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 face discrimination may file lawsuits. In most cases, an employment lawyer will be the best source of legal help.
- 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. Lawyers often prefer to help their clients with filing this complaint. 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 another 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. If the discrimination occurred within the workplace, work with an employment lawyer.
Related Practice Areas
Make sure you know your rights, and consider calling an attorney if you believe you were subject to discrimination. There are many statutes in place meant to protect this country's workers from unethical treatment.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.