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Looking at the concept of disparate impact in workplace discrimination cases, P.1

Racial and economic inequality is an ongoing issue in many areas of the United States, including here in Minnesota. Earlier this year, Governor Dayton proposed that Congress devote a day-long special legislative session to address the issue, but the proposal was not adopted. Now the governor is asking for $15 million to study any legislation which may have a “disparate impact” on racial minorities or those with low income.

In an address earlier this month, Governor Dayton discussed the issue, citing disproportionately low income levels and higher poverty rates for African-American, Mexican-American, Somalian, and Native American families when compared to white families in Minnesota. He also blamed lawmakers for failing to distribute millions of dollars in unemployment benefits to the poor, failing to invest in early childhood care and education, and cutting spending on public transportation. 

Whatever your viewpoint concerning politics, welfare, and how tax dollars should be spent, it is a fact that disparate impact can be a problem when it comes to discrimination in the workplace. Disparate impact, in discrimination legal theory, is distinct from intentional discrimination. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the adoption of the theory of disparate impact was a result of employers using seemingly neutral workplace policies to target certain types of employees or prospective hires.

The theory of disparate impacts says that employers are still considered to be engaging in illegal discrimination when they use neutral policies which have a disproportionate, adverse effect on any protected class. In our next post, we’ll continue exploring the notion of disparate impact and why it is important to work with an experienced legal advocate when pursuing disparate impact cases.


PJ Media, “More Bureaucracy Pitched as Solution to Minnesota’s Racial, Income Inequality,” Rod Kackley, March 10, 2016., “Shaping Employment Discrimination Law, “Accessed March 22, 2016. 

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