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10 Ways You Can Legally Discriminate In The USA

by Mark Oliver
fact checked by Jamie Frater

America’s come a long way. The days of keeping slaves and forbidding women from voting have come and gone. Today, the people of the land of the free can take pride in living in a country where all people are created equal, and all people enjoy the same rights.

Almost all the same rights. If you still have a few prejudiced bones in your body, you can act on them all you want—just as long as you know the right circumstances.

10Companies Can Refuse To Hire LGBT Employees In 28 States


Photo credit: Mic/ACLU

The Civil Rights Act forbids discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin but not sexual orientation—until last year. Which sounds like a victory, but there are conflicting reports on whether that definition trumps religious exemption laws. So, as long as a state claims religious grounds, its citizens might be able to go on firing LGBT employees.

Somebody will have to test this in court to find out which law will win out. Until then, though, a lot of people are playing it safe—so much so that it’s considered common for CEOs to come out at their retirement party.

9The NYPD Can Discriminate Against Smart People


Photo credit: Gcin1987Wikimedia

In 1996, a man named Robert Jordan applied to be a police officer but was rejected because of his scores—which were too high. The NYPD had set a maximum score on their test scores and set a policy of refusing anyone who did too well, worried that smart people would get “bored” with the training.

Jordan spent four years fighting it in court, but as smart as he was, he still lost. The court ruled that the NYPD had the right to refuse intelligent people—and Jordan was stuck with a job as a prison guard.

So just how smart was this super-genius? Jordan had an IQ of 125—only a couple dozen points about average, and not even high enough to get into Mensa.

8Immigration Can Discriminate Against Children Of Unwed Parents


Photo credit: Gulbenk/Wikimedia

Having an American parent is usually enough to get a person into the country—but not if you were born out of wedlock.

Section 309 of the immigration code sets out a whole set of special rules for children of unmarried parents. A birth certificate isn’t enough. A bastard child has to get dad to swear under oath that he acknowledges the child as his own.

People have tried to get section 309 overturned, but nobody has succeeded. As far as the government of the United States is concerned, a child just isn’t the same if the parents don’t take the time to tie the knot.

7The Boy Scouts Can Discriminate Against Atheists


Photo credit: Cherie A. Thurlby

The Boy Scouts are a long-standing group that take care of the welfare of children, but most people don’t realize just how old their values are. This group is deeply rooted in old traditions, a lot of which don’t really fit into today’s society.

Up until recently, the group refused leaders if they were gay. And even now, the Boy Scouts have a charter demanding the “recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe.” Over the years, this has been updated to allow people to acknowledge any god—but you still have to acknowledge one. To this day, atheists can still be excluded from the group.

6Michigan Adoption Agencies Can Refuse Gay Couples


There’s a chance that the right to gay marriage will do a lot to help orphans. While there are alternatives, a loving couple that can’t conceive children seems a lot more likely to adopt—and so there’s a good chance we might see a lot more children finding homes as gay marriage becomes accepted.

But not in Michigan. Last year, the state passed a law allowing adoption agencies to refuse gay couples on religious grounds. The adoption agencies have to register as faith-based to take advantage of the exemption, but any group that does can turn away any same-sex couple.

5Playboy Clubs Can Discriminate Against Ugly Women


Photo credit: Christiano Oliveira

Employees are protected in discrimination at most jobs, but there are clauses in our employment laws that let companies refuse employees for any reason that can be called a bona fide qualification. As long as they can justify it as integral to the job, they can refuse people.

Playboy’s Clubs won a lawsuit for refusing to hire girls that weren’t pretty enough for precisely this reason. The judge ruled that customers visiting a Playboy Club were expecting to be titillated by the women there, and the company won the right to refuse to hire any girl who’d make you swipe left on Tinder.

4Teachers In Texas Can Hit Students


In Texas, school boards can give their teachers the legal right to exercise corporal punishment. Teachers in that state are free to beat little boys and girls who misbehave—or, at least, beat them within the confines of the rules set by the school board.

If a parent doesn’t want their child getting hit by an angry educator, they have to handwrite a signed statement asking the school not to hit their children. And not just once—they have to renew it every year. If mom and dad forget to send in the letter at the start of the school year, all bets are off, and the kid might be coming home with a tanned hide.

3Senior Citizens Can’t Drive Buses


When your child steps onto the school bus each morning in America, you won’t be seeing a kindly grey-haired old retiree greeting them for the new school day. In the United States, school bus drivers are required to retire the second they turn 65.

The logic is that senior seniors are more likely to have an accident, so the government won’t trust them behind the wheel when a child’s welfare is at stake. One senior tried to fight this back in 1992, but he lost his case and was forced to quit sitting behind the wheel on the day of his 65th birthday.

2Judges In North Carolina Can Refuse To Marry Gay Couples


Today, gay couples are free to lock themselves in the bonds of matrimony anywhere across the 50 states. But in one of those states, there’s nothing saying that the judges have to help them do it.

Shortly after equal marriage rights were introduced, the state of North Carolina ratified Senate Bill 2, which allows judges to refuse to marry gay couples on religious grounds. As long as a judge’s opposition to gay marriage is religious and “sincerely held,” he can step aside.

The law doesn’t leave couples completely in the lurch. If necessary, they will call in a judge from out of state so that the couple can still get married. Still, it’s a bit strange, because judges in the state are still legally required to fulfil every single duty of their office—except for helping gay people get married.

1Small Companies Can Discriminate As Much As They Want


Some of these rules are pretty specific, but there’s one way you can legally go around discriminating as much as you want: by running a small business. According to US employment laws, any business with fewer than 15 employees is completely free to.

If you apply for a job at a major corporation and they tell you, “Sorry, we don’t hire black lesbian immigrants with dwarfism,” you’re in for a landfall of lawsuit money. But if it’s a small-time operation, there’s nothing you can do. US equal employment laws don’t cover any business with less than 15 people working for them.

So, don’t let that pesky Civil Rights Act stand in your way. As long as you know the right time and place, you can discriminate against anyone you want.

Mark Oliver is a regular contributor to Listverse. His writing also appears on several other sites, including The Onion’s StarWipe and His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Mark Oliver

Mark Oliver is a regular contributor to Listverse. His writing also appears on a number of other sites, including The Onion's StarWipe and His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.

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