Discrimination any situation in which a group or individual is treated unfavorably based on prejudice, usually against their membership of a socially distinct group or category. Such categories include ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, age, and disability. Discrimination applying to the equal availability of employment opportunities, housing, and goods and services is widely legislated against.
A person now has the right not to be subjected to less favorable treatment on the grounds of sex, and can sue the discriminator for damages if there is discrimination. It is applicable, typically, in the provision of employment, services, and education.
Discrimination, either direct or indirect, is prohibited. Direct discrimination occurs, generally, when a benefit is denied to a woman simply because she is a woman: this law has been used to enforce equality in the workplace, as well as requiring, for example, "men-only" public bars to admit women. Indirect discrimination occurs when a benefit or employment opportunity depends on a requirement that is more likely to be met by one sex than another, and which cannot be objectively justified against job-related criteria: it has been used to make unlawful a top age limit for many job applications, for example, because more women than men are likely to be over this limit, since women are more likely to have taken time out of a career to have children.
In order to give effect to the Acts, the Equal Opportunities Commission was established in Britain. It operates by supporting test cases under the Acts, investigating employers suspected of widespread discrimination, and promoting equality of opportunity, via, for example, good practice guides for employers. While it is funded by the government, it is an independent body, and has successfully sued the government on behalf of part-time workers, the majority of whom are female.