Definition: Discrimination (Overview)

Equal opportunity means that every person has an equal chance to participate and succeed in employment or academic activities without discrimination based on membership in a protected class. Under state and federal law and University of Minnesota policy, individuals and groups are designated as protected class members by race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, and sexual orientation. The law, and basic fairness, demands that decisions about our employment and academic success should be made on the basis of merit, and bona fide occupational qualifications.

Discrimination involves intended or unintended denial of recognition, power, privilege, and opportunity to certain people based on the groups to which they belong. Examples of practices that could be considered discriminatory are:

  • making employment or academic decisions on the basis of stereotypical characterizations, such as “men are less capable of doing clerical work” or “women are less capable of holding leadership positions;”
  • conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the individual’s work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or academic environment, based on an individual’s protected class;
  • refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation that would enable a qualified person with a disability to participate on the job or in a class;
  • refusing to hire a qualified individual because potential coworkers express a preference to work with someone of a different race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, or sexual orientation. 

If you know or suspect that discrimination is occurring, or to report an incident at the University, please contact your supervisor or administrator or the Office of Equal Opportunity. EOAA Equal Opportunity Consultants are available to discuss your concerns.