Disparate Impact Law and Legal Definition

Disparate impact is a legal phrase used in employment law to describe when a facially neutral practice that has an unjustified adverse impact on members of a protected class. Examples of practices that may be claimed to have a disparate impact include written tests, height and weight requirements, educational requirements, and subjective procedures, such as interviews.

The plaintiff must prove that the challenged practice or selection device has a substantial adverse impact on a protected group. Typically, this proof is offered through statistical comparisons, which may be challenged by the defendant. It is a defense if the defendant shows the practice is job-related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity. However, the plaintiff may still prevail by showing that the employer has refused to adopt an alternative employment practice which would satisfy the employer's legitimate interests without having a disparate impact on a protected class.