Helpful Definitions

Helpful Definitions:

Age Discrimination: involves treating an individual, or group of individuals, less favorably because of their age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people who are aged 40 or older. It does not protect workers under the age of 40, although some states have laws that protect younger workers from age discrimination. An employment policy or practice that applies to everyone, regardless of age, can be against College policy, if it has a negative impact on individuals, or groups of individuals, age 40 or older and is not based on a reasonable factor other than age.

Bias: prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared to another, usually in a way considered to be unfair. Bias can be influenced by a number of factors, can be either conscious or unconscious, and can be either explicit or implicit. Bias can be directed at individuals and/or embedded into practices, procedures, policies, and systems within institutions.

Bias Incident: any hurtful, discriminatory, or harassing action that one could reasonably believe targets an individual, group, or thing based on actual or perceived membership to a particular identity group. These groups include, but are not limited to protected classes as defined under RISD’s Non-Discrimination policy. Bias incidents are not required to be a crime under any state, federal, or local statutes, nor does it have to violate any College policies.

Color Discrimination: involves treating an individual, or a group of individuals, unfavorably because of their skin complexion. This can also involve treating an individual, or group of individuals, unfavorably because they are married to, or associated with, a person of a certain color.

Discrimination: occurs when an individual or class of individuals is treated differently, either unfavorably or unfairly, based upon their membership or perceived membership to a protected class.

Disability Discrimination: occurs when an individual treats a qualified individual, or group of individuals, unfavorably because they have a disability. This applies to individuals who have disabilities, had disabilities, or are believed to have disabilities. This can also involve treating an individual, or group of individuals, unfavorably because they are married to, or associated with, a person who has, had, or is believed to have a disability. The law requires the College to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense (“undue hardship”).

Ethnicity: a term used to categorize an individual or groups of individuals according to their cultural expression and identification. Commonalities such as racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin may be used to describe an individual’s ethnicity.

Gender: a social combination of identity, expression, and social elements related to masculinity or femininity. It includes gender identity (self-identification), gender expression (self-expression), social gender (social expectations), gender roles (socialized actions), and gender attribution (social perception).

Gender-Based Harassment: unwelcome conduct that is gender-based verbal, non-verbal, written online, and/or physical conduct that unreasonably interferes with, denies, or limits an individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the College’s educational, employment, social, or residential programs.

Gender Expression: how an individual chooses to express their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice, body characteristics, etc. Gender expression may change over time and from day to day, and may or may not conform to an individual’s gender identity.

Gender Identity: an individual’s internal sense of self. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others. 

Harassment: unwelcome conduct, whether physical, verbal, and/or through the use of electronic means, that is direct or perceived to be directed at an individual or group of individuals because of their actual membership or perceived membership to a protected class. This conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with the individual’s or group of individuals education or employment and creates a hostile environment, from an objective perspective, that is severe, persistent, or pervasive that it unreasonably interferes with, limits, or denies the individual or group of individuals the ability to participate in or to receive benefits of the College’s educational or employment programs and activities.

Hate Crime: Under Rhode Island state law, any crime motivated by bigotry and bias, including but not limited to threatened, attempted, or completed acts that appear after an investigation to have been motivated by racial, religious, ethnic, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, or disability prejudice or motivated by prejudice against a person who is homeless or is perceived to be homeless. R.I.G.L.,§ 42-28-46, 1988)

Implicit/Unconscious Bias: social stereotypes about certain groups of people, which are not limited to ethnicity and race, that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by unconscious categorizing. 

Microaggressions: small, daily insults and indignities perpetuated against marginalized or oppressed people because of their affiliation with that marginalized or oppressed group. Microaggressions can be unintentional, subtle, and indirect; and are more likely to occur when people pretend not to notice differences, thereby denying race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin, or any other aspect of identity had anything to do with their specific actions(s). Racial microaggressions: insults and indignities perpetuated against people of color.

National Origin Discrimination: involves treating individuals or a group of individuals unfavorably because they are from a particular country or part of the world, because of ethnicity or accent, or because they appear to be of a certain ethnic background (even if they are not). This can also involve treating people unfavorably because they are married to, or associated with, a person of a certain national origin. 

Protected Class: a group of people who share common characteristics who are protected from discrimination under federal and state laws, statutes, and College policies. Protected classes include race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and genetic information.

Race: refers to the concept of dividing people into populations or groups on the basis of various sets of physical characteristics that result from a shared ancestry.

Race Discrimination: involves treating an individual or a group of individuals, unfavorably because they are of a certain race or because of personal characteristics associated with that race (such as hair texture, skin color, or certain facial features etc.) This can also involve treating an individual, or group of individuals, unfavorably because they are married to, or associated with, a person of a certain race.

Retaliation: consists of any adverse action taken against an individual, or group of individuals, for initiating or participating, in good faith, in the investigation of a complaint of sexual misconduct or discrimination. Engaging in this behavior is prohibited and may result in a further violation of College policy.

Religious Discrimination: involves treating an individual, or group of individuals, unfavorably because of their religious beliefs. This could also involve treating an individual, or group of individuals, unfavorably because they are married to, or associated with, individuals of a particular religion.

Sex: is separate from gender as this term refers to the biological assignment of an individual at birth. Sex is often used synonymously with gender; however, they should be defined separately to differentiate between biological sex and sociocultural sex.

Sex/Gender Discrimination: an intentional or unintentional act that adversely affects employment and/or educational opportunities because of a person’s sex, marital, or parental status, including pregnant and pregnancy related conditions, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex stereotype. Discrimination may be classified as either disparate impact (facially neutral practices that fall more hardly on one group than another and cannot be justified by business necessity) or disparate treatment (treatment of an individual, or group of individuals, that is less favorable than treatment of others based upon unlawful discriminatory reasons).

Sexual Orientation: an individual’s physical and/or emotional attraction to and desire to sexually or emotionally partner with specific genders and/or sexes.

Veteran Status Discrimination: involves treating an individual or a group of individuals, unfavorably because they are currently serving in uniformed services or are a veteran (former uniformed military service member). This can also involve treating an individual, or group of individual veterans unfavorably because of a disability, regardless of whether the disability is service-connected.

These definitions were compiled from existing resources and with credit to Merriam-Webster, Rhode Island State Law, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Brown University, Ijeoma Oluo, “So you want to talk about race?,” The University of California, San Francisco Office of Diversity and Outreach, Verywell Mind, “The Difference Between Race and Ethnicity.”