What Is Institutional Discrimination? Why Is It Bad?

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 2
Words: 464
Reading time:
2 min

Institutional discrimination definition is the discrimination by a large group, society, organization or social institution against members of a minority. Institutional discrimination may take place in the educational system, in commercial and production organizations, in the legal and judicial system, etc. Quite often there are cases of institutional discrimination in the workplace.


Discrimination means biased (caused by negative stereotypes), unfair actions against members of certain social groups. The fact that discriminatory behavior is unfair can be evidenced by the fact that abusive, cruel or offensive acts are committed against members of only certain groups and not against other groups. If, for example, a person who is healthy usually shakes a hand outstretched to them, but refuses to do so when the hand outstretched to them is of a person of a different race, it is racial discrimination. If only women or only men are given preference in employment, this is gender discrimination. If a person is refused to be taken seriously simply because he or she is “too young” or “too old”, then this is age discrimination.

Harassment is a form of discrimination when it is also based on prohibited grounds of discrimination. Harassment may take the form of words, gestures or actions that tend to irritate, disturb, insult, humiliate, intimidate, belittle or embarrass another person, or that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. While harassment usually involves a certain type of behavior, it can take the form of an isolated incident.

An unequal attitude is not considered discrimination if the different position meets an objective requirement, if the purpose of the requirement is legitimate and the means chosen to achieve it are proportionate. Exclusive rights in connection with pregnancy and maternity are not considered discrimination in social protection measures. Also, various positive measures aimed at promoting the rights of a disadvantaged group (positive discrimination) are not considered discrimination. Direct discrimination manifests itself when a person is different and less favorable than another person and is based on any prohibited ground of discrimination.

Indirect discrimination may be established in cases where a seemingly neutral rule, criterion or practise places a group of individuals (who share a common ground of discrimination) in a particularly disadvantageous position compared to another group. In such a case, a situation appears in which a person is not prohibited from exercising his or her rights on account of belonging to a particular group. Still, the opportunity or acquisition of that specific group is not equivalent. Instructing or encouraging discrimination is also a form of discrimination that manifests itself when another person is instructed to discriminate against a person based on a prohibited criterion. For example, the owner of a nightclub commands the guard not to allow Gypsy people into the club.