Discrimination Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Discrimination, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Discrimination?

n. Irregardless to legal rights or ability, the unequal treatment of persons. State and federal laws forbid discrimination in housing availability, employment, right to promotion, rates of pay, civil rights, educational opportunities, and the use of facilities based upon nationality, creed, race, color, sex, age, or sexual orientation. A variety of federal and state laws allow private parties with the right to pursue a lawsuit and seek damages by protesting discrimination and enforcing one’s right to equal treatment. Federal and state commissions investigate and enforce equal rights.

History and Meaning of Discrimination

Discrimination is a practice that has existed for centuries, and it refers to the act of treating a group or individual differently based on factors like race, nationality, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation or disabilities. It can be traced back to social, political and economic factors that have shaped societies throughout human history. Discrimination can take many forms, including exclusion, negative stereotypes, hate speech, harassment and violence, and it often results in unequal treatment of people that infringes on their human rights.

Examples of Discrimination

  1. A hiring manager refusing to hire a woman for a job based solely on the fact that she is female.
  2. A store owner refusing to serve a customer because of their race or ethnicity.
  3. A school denying admission to a student because of their disability.
  4. An insurance company charging higher premiums to individuals based on their age.
  5. A landlord denying a rental application from a person because of their sexual orientation.

Legal Terms Similar to Discrimination

  1. Prejudice - a preconceived belief or judgment about a person based on their identity.
  2. Stereotyping - putting individuals into broad categories based on their identity, which can lead to unfair treatment or assumptions.
  3. Harassment - unwanted and offensive behavior directed at an individual based on their identity or protected characteristics.
  4. Segregation - the practice of keeping people of different races or identities separate in public facilities, schools, housing or other areas.
  5. Inequality - lack of equal treatment, rights or opportunities for individuals or groups based on their identity or protected characteristics.