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Reverse Discrimination

What is reverse discrimination? 

In most scenarios, when people imagine a case of discrimination in the workplace, they might picture a manager who is a member of a “majority group” (men or white people) taking an adverse action against an employee who belongs to a minority group (person of colour, women, people with a disability). This type of discrimination is illegal and unjust.  

On the other hand, reverse discrimination, also known as positive discrimination, is a term typically used by those in a majority group, like the ones mentioned above. It describes a case where a person in a majority group is discriminated against in favour of members of a minority group, or those who have been historically disadvantaged. Reverse discrimination is also described as preferential treatment and is a controversial concept, particularly when discussing affirmative action or similar policies.  


What are examples of reverse discrimination? 

Reverse discrimination sometimes occurs because of the laws that were put in place to address discrimination against minorities. For example, affirmative action aims to level the playing field in higher education and employment for members of minority groups. Occasionally, majority group members receive unfair discrimination as a direct result of affirmative action programmes. 

Common examples of reverse discrimination are: 

  1. When considering a team member for promotion, a white person is discrimination against in favour of a racial minority 
  2. A man might take legal action against his employer for giving a woman favourable treatment at work solely based on her gender identity. 
  3. Refusing to hire or hire people under the age of 40 in favour of hiring people over the age of 40. 
  4. In recruitment, favouring an ethnic or racial minority when choosing a candidate for a role over a white person. 

When applicants are being considered for roles, when promotions are upcoming or when there is a policy being updated, be careful not to advantage one group at the expense of another. There is a fine balance to strike to ensure all groups have been fairly considered. 



Reverse discrimination, also known as positive discrimination, is a term typically used by those in a majority group to describe unfavourable treatment in the workplace in order to advantage those in the minority group. One example of this is affirmative action which occurs both in higher education and in the workplace. It is important to be aware of all kinds of discrimination that can occur at work. Affirmative action and similar policies have been successful to some degree in levelling the playing field and giving minority groups opportunities they may not have had access to before. But there is a fine balance to strike. 

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