The two legal terms used to describe types of discrimination are (1) disparate treatment and (2) disparate impact. Disparate treatment refers to an employer intentionally treating an employee differently based on race, gender, religion, disability, age, or some other protected category. For example, let’s say that two employees a male and a female both commit the same offense of reading personal email excessively on company time. Then, the employer suspends the male employee but only issues a verbal warning to the female employee. The male employee may claim that he was subjected to disparate treatment based on sex. When employers apply their rules and regulations inconsistently to different employees, it raises the possibility that certain employees were subjected to disparate treatment discrimination.
Disparate impact discrimination is different. It refers to facially neutral employment policies that work an adverse impact on a protected class.