Disparate Treatment Law & Legal Definition


Disparate treatment, in the employment context, refers to when a person is treated differently from others. The different treatment is based on one or more of the protected factors and the different treatment is intentional. This is distinguished from the concept of "adverse impact", which may be unintentional and applies to a protected group rather than an individual.

For example, disparate treatment occurs when a supervisor allows the majority of his/her employees to enjoy a particular job benefit but denies a single employee that same benefit.

Protected classes identified by state and/or federal law include:

  • Age - A person 40 years of age or older.
  • Color - Regarding the complexion or varying shades of a person’s skin.
  • Creed - Any statement or system of belief, principles or opinions.
  • Disability - Any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities; one who has a record of such impairment; or one who is regarded as having such an impairment.
  • National Origin - Characteristic of or peculiar to the people of a nation; of or relating to ancestral beginnings, physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a particular national group.
  • Race - A local geographic or global human population distinguished as more or less distinct group by genetically transmitted immutable characteristics (such as skin color, hair texture and certain facial features); any group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality, or geographical distribution; mankind as a whole. All people are allowed for the purposes of Title VII of 1964 Civil Rights Act to claim genealogy to one or more race and are, therefore, readily covered under this category.
  • Religion – All aspects of religious observance, practice and belief which include moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.
  • Sex/Gender - The condition or character of being male or female. Sexual orientation or preference is not protected under this or any other protected class identified by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.