What is Overt Discrimination?

Definition: Overt discrimination is an explicit display of unequal treatment given to a certain individual or group because of a particular characteristic they possess. It is a public statement of prejudice against individuals with similar appearance or attributes.

What Does Overt Discrimination Mean in Business?

Overt discrimination takes place when an individual or a company publicly shows its intolerance towards a certain individual or group. In the workplace, this discrimination might be displayed by disrespectful treatments or exclusions to workers with certain physical attributes, religious or political viewpoints. If a worker is not allowed to perform a given activity because of a characteristic that makes him different from his peers, like the ones mentioned above, an overt discrimination is taking place.

On the other hand, during a hiring process, companies can also discriminate explicitly a given group of individuals if its screening processes contain racism or religious and political biases. These prejudices are prohibited by the law. This type of discrimination is not as common as it was in the past but it still happens in the U.S. Nevertheless, it is more common to see subtle discrimination situations where these biases are not publicly stated but they seem to be happening either way.


A marketing company is currently looking to hire a female model that will participate in a sampling campaign of a new body cream from one of its top clients. The client demanded a white model between the ages of 22 and 28, well-spoken. The marketing company analyzed the request and its legal department advised them to be careful with the job ad because the statement that they are looking for a white female exclusively might seem like an overt discrimination and it may pose a legal threat.

The company decided to talk with the client to persuade them to ease this requirement, since the possibility of being misinterpreted during the screening process might put them in a difficult legal position. The client agreed with this viewpoint and asked the marketing company to expand the search to include any skin color.

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