Discrimination, in the legal sense, means treating someone unfairly because they happen to belong to a particular group – because, for example, the person is female or comes from a particular ethnic group or has a disability. Discrimination is often the result of prejudice or negative stereotyping based on ignorance, fear, or simple naivety.
Unfair treatment can be obvious (like when you are treated unfairly because you belong to a particular group compared to someone else from a different group), or it can be less obvious, (like when a rule or policy seems to apply equally to everybody but when it is examined more closely, it actually has an unfair impact on a particular group of people). In law, obviously unfair treatment is known as direct discrimination and less obvious unfair treatment is known as indirect discrimination.
Direct discrimination example
If an employer won’t hire someone just because he is a man, this is likely to be direct sex discrimination
Indirect discrimination example
An employer who advertises for someone 190cm tall to do a job is likely to end up discriminating against women and against men from some ethnic groups. If it can be shown that a shorter person could do the job, or that it is easily adapted to suit shorter people, indirect sex or race discrimination could be claimed.