What is the difference between overt and covert discrimination?

On Behalf of | Jul 8, 2022 | Workplace Discrimination |

Workplace discrimination is a huge problem, where certain employees experience unfair consequences based on their age, race, gender ethnicity, nationality or disability, which distinguishes them from the larger group.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prohibits disparate treatment of individuals in the workplace, but it still happens either overtly or covertly every day.

Overt discrimination

Overt discrimination is direct and intentional. This is the most common form of discrimination.  Examples of overt discrimination include:

  • Physically assaulting another person based on his or her race, religion or sexual orientation.
  • Perpetrating verbal or sexual harassment against a female colleague to demean her in the workplace
  • Vandalizing property belonging to a member of a minority group

Because of modern society’s disapproval of these types of overt misconduct, such tactics give way to more passive expressions of hate.

Covert discrimination

Alternative to overt discriminatory tactics, covert actions involve subtle acts of preconception or prejudice. Examples include:

  • Employers exploit someone’s ethnic, gender or racial identity to meet diversity requirements
  • Male colleagues exaggerate politeness and chivalry toward female counterparts
  • A manager frequently overlooks middle-aged employees for promotion citing seemingly rational reasons despite qualifications

Covert discrimination can be difficult to prove because there are often rational or nondiscriminatory reasons that cloak a perpetrator’s specific actions. Additionally, a person committing covert discrimination may not realize their indiscretion because of subconscious beliefs or social norms.

Discrimination in any fashion is disgraceful and casts a dark shadow on corporations and institutions where leaders and managers fail to check bad behavior. Because you deserve to work in a safe and respectful environment, it is important to understand your rights under U.S. employment law.


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