In certain situations, differential treatment based on personal characteristics may be allowed or even be mandatory. However, such situations are rare and must be exhaustively described in law.

Differential treatment based on your personal characteristics is permissible in certain exceptional situations. For example, when a particular personal characteristic is very important for a job, or when education or goods and services are intended for a person belonging to a particular group. State and municipal authorities usually have much less leeway to apply exceptions than do private entities and individuals.

Sometimes these exceptions and differential treatment may become part of a state-wide policy to fight against historic or deeply rooted discrimination. In this case, differential treatment is aimed at normalizing the circumstances of particular groups of people that are in an unequal position in society. For example, reasonable accommodation in the working environment is necessary for the better treatment and prevention of discrimination against disabled people.

About this section

This section of the Guide will explain the most common exceptions that can justify differential treatment in certain situations.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education