What is discrimination? What are types of discrimination? Where does discrimination occur? Where to report discrimination?
What is discrimination?
Discrimination is when persons in a similar situation are treated differently (usually less favourably) without objective and reasonable justification, and the only reason for the differential treatment is that the person belongs to a particular group.
The most common grounds for discrimination are race/skin colour, ethnic origin, religion or other belief, disability, age, gender, and sexual orientation. The list is not exhaustive and there may be other grounds.
E.g., men and women are paid differently for the same type of work (gender discrimination).
Types of discrimination:
Direct discrimination – when a person is treated unfairly or less favourably than another person or a group of persons in a similar situation due to their “protected characteristic ”.
E.g., a hairdresser refuses to provide his/her services to pensioners but provides them to persons of other age (age discrimination).
Indirect discrimination – occurs when there is an apparently neutral rule, criteria, or practice that disadvantages a person or a group of persons sharing the same characteristics, unless such a rule, criteria, or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and is proportionate to the aim pursued.
E.g., the requirement that a police officer is at least 1.75 m tall will exclude mostly women to pursue their career as a police officer (gender discrimination).
Multiple discrimination – a person is put in a disadvantaged situation due to several grounds of discrimination at the same time.
E.g., a lesbian is denied a manicure service because of her sexual orientation and age (discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and age)
Discrimination by association – occurs when a person is treated less favourably because of their association with another person or group of persons who possesses a ‘protected characteristic’.
E.g., an employer fires an employee who has a child with a disability because he or she believes that due to this circumstance, the employee is more likely to be absent from work or unable to perform it fully (disability discrimination ).
Instruction to discriminate – an order or instruction from a superior to discriminate against a person/group of persons. An instruction to discriminate might involve psychological terror (or mobbing).
E.g., a recruitment company does not consider applications from Roma applicants because such an instruction was given by the employer (ethnic discrimination)
The boss tells his subordinates not to greet a Jewish colleague who wears a traditional Jewish men’s head covering – kippah during work (discrimination of the ground of ethnic origin or religion)
Harassment – unwanted conduct related to a person’s belonging to a certain group with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, and creating an of intimidating, hostile, humiliating, degrading or offensive environment.
E.g., sexual harassment of women in the workplace (gender discrimination).
Where does discrimination occur?
Employment and vocational training. This includes job advertisements, job interviews, the establishment of legal relations, the duration of employment relationships, in particular the promotion of an employee, the determination of working conditions, pay, vocational training or professional development, and the termination of an employment contract.
E.g: When choosing between two candidates for a managerial position, the employer hires a less qualified man than a woman who has higher qualification (gender discrimination).
Employees over the age of 50 are paid less by their employer than younger employees for identical work (age discrimination).
Social security, including social insurance and healthcare, social benefits, allowance, etc.
E.g.: A social care institution refuses to admit an ethnic Latvian client, arguing that all other clients are ethnic Russians (ethnic discrimination).
The family doctor refuses to treat (?) a person with a mental disorder (disability discrimination).
Access to publicly available goods and services. This includes the operation of shops, hotels, cinemas, theatres, restaurants, hairdressers, banks, and other service providers.
E.g.: A travel agency only offers trips to people under the age of 40 (age discrimination).
The nightclub requires a different entrance fee for persons who speak Latvian and those who speak a foreign language (language or ethnic discrimination).
Education, including further education.
E.g.: A school does not admit a dark-skinned pupil from a poor family on the grounds that the parents of other pupils do not want their children to study with "poor refugees from Africa" (racial discrimination and discrimination due to social status).
The principle of non-discrimination also includes environmental accessibility and reasonable accommodation. Environmental accessibility means that everyone, regardless of age and physical ability, must be able to freely and independently access and move around the environment according to its functionality.
E.g.: People with reduced mobility (including those in wheelchairs) can only access the ground floor of a newly built college/university and therefore cannot attend lectures on other floors (discrimination on the grounds of disability due to lack of environmental accessibility).
Reasonable accommodation, on the other hand, involves the necessary and appropriate changes and adjustments, or individual approach to human needs (e.g., in the workplace, educational institution, receiving a service, etc.), if it does not impose an unreasonable or disproportionate burden to ensure that everyone can enjoy equal treatment with others and enjoy all human rights, in particular persons with disabilities, pensioners, representatives of different religions, etc.
E.g.: An employer prohibits a practicing Muslim from using a separate room to hold a prayer during work, although free room is available at the workplace and its use at certain times does not interfere with the company's work (discrimination on the grounds of religion without providing reasonable accommodation).
Where to report discrimination?
Discrimination can be reported to the Ombudsman's Office, to the public authorities supervising specific areas, and to the courts.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can provide counselling and legal aid as well as mediation in cases of discrimination.
State Labour Inspectorate (Valsts darba inspekcija)
K.Valdemāra street 38 k-1, Rīga, LV-1010
Tel.: (+371) 67021704, telephone for consultations (+371) 67186522
Health Inspectorate (Veselības inspekcija)
Klijānu street 7, Rīga, LV–1012
Tel.: (+371) 67081600
Access to goods and services:
Consumer Rights Protection Centre (Patērētāju tiesību aizsardzības centrs)
Tel.: (+371) 65452554
State Education Quality Service (Izglītības kvalitātes valsts dienests)
Smilšu street 7, Rīga, LV-1050
Tel.: +371 67222504
Ombudsman’s Office (Tiesībsarga birojs)
Baznīcas street 25, Rīgā, LV-1010
Latvian Centre for Human Rights (Latvijas Cilvēktiesību centrs)
Skolas street 21, 609C, Rīgā, LV-1010
Tel.: (+371) 67039290
To report discrimination, fill in an e-form: www.cilvektiesibas.org.lv/lv/database/report-discrimination/
See more information about discrimination at:
Informative material is published in the project “On the way to more tolerant society: awareness, education, support and cooperation.” The project is funded by the Island, Lichtenstein and Norway through EEA / Norwegian grant programme "Active Citizens Fund". Latvian Centre for Human Rights is fully responsible for the content of the material.