Direct discrimination is often the result of stereotypes people hold about specific groups.

In order for someone to show that they have been directly discriminated against, they must compare the treatment that they have received to the treatment of someone who does not have their particular characteristic (also called – a protected characteristic).

Cases of direct discrimination can occur in all areas of life, such as the employment environment, access to goods and services, and with regard to social benefits and education. In this Guide, you can also read more about situations involving discrimination.

example Cases of direct discrimination in employment can include the refusal to hire you only because you are a Roma, or a woman over 45, or when a woman is dismissed because she is pregnant, or when a man is paid more than a woman for doing the same job. In an education context, direct discrimination occurs when there is a refusal to admit a child to a school because his or her family is of a certain religion, for example, Muslim. In the area of services, examples of direct discrimination would be a club’s refusal to grant entry due to someone’s darker skin colour, or when someone is refused access to a hotel because he or she is Roma or a gay or a lesbian.

Direct discrimination also covers situations where a person is treated unfairly due to being associated with somebody (such as a relative, a friend or a colleague). This is discrimination by association.

example An employer refuses to send an employee on a training course because the employee, although heterosexual, openly supports a local LGBTI organisation.

Direct discrimination also includes cases where a person is treated unfairly because of a mistaken assumption. This is discrimination by assumption.

example A person is not offered a job or refused a service because an employer or a service provider mistakenly thinks this person is a Muslim, a Roma or gay.

In some, very limited cases, direct differential treatment may not constitute discrimination. To read more about these cases, see exceptions.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education