Geographical discrimination refers to the unfair treatment or prejudice against individuals based on their geographic location or country of origin.

In the workplace, geographical discrimination occurs if an employer treats a job candidate or employee differently based on their location or place of origin.

Geographical discrimination can include discriminatory employer behaviors toward an employee based on their location, resulting in unfair treatment or unequal access to opportunities, resources, or services. This treatment may occur when employers favor candidates or employees from certain geographic areas.

Geographical discrimination may stem from racial prejudices, convenience factors, or country-specific stereotypes.

Examples of geographical discrimination

Geographical discrimination can take various forms. The following scenarios are examples of geographical discrimination:

  • Denying a candidate a job opportunity based on where they live
  • Hiring candidates based on their proximity to the workplace
  • Offering lower pay or benefits to individuals in certain regions
  • Condoning a poor, hostile, or unfair work environment for an employee with a particular regional accent
  • Favoring employees in certain locations over others for promotions

For example, an employer may refuse to hire, promote, or equally pay individuals from specific regions or countries. When presented with several equally qualified candidates for a job role, the employer might demonstrate geographical discrimination by choosing the applicant who lives closer to the workplace.

Geographical discrimination can also limit economic opportunities and create disparities between regions or communities. For instance, businesses or investors might favor certain company entities or geographic areas of the global marketplace over others, limiting economic growth and opportunities for the branches and employees in the neglected regions.

Legal implications of geographical discrimination

While many country employment laws protect employees from discrimination based on class, such as race, age, sex, religion, or disability, a person’s geographic location or origin is not a protected class. Therefore, employers could legally practice geographical discrimination.

Employers can impose any hiring requirements they like as long as they are not discriminatory by law. For instance, many government entities require that their employees live within the jurisdiction's boundaries.

However, employers should practice good ethics and treat employees or job candidates equally, no matter their location or geographical origin.

How to avoid geographical discrimination

There are various methods employers can use to avoid geographical discrimination when hiring international employees, including the following:

  • Develop an anti-discrimination policy. Implement a clear and concise anti-discrimination policy that prohibits unfair treatment based on protected characteristics, including geographic origin. Ensure hiring managers understand the policy and the ramifications of not following the policy. 
  • Train employees. Inform employees of geographical discrimination and ensure they understand how to recognize and prevent it.
  • Create a welcoming and inclusive culture. Cultivate opportunities for employees from diverse backgrounds to interact with each other. Showing employees that you value workplace diversity helps build trust and enables your new hires to feel welcome and equally part of the team. 
  • Hire globally. Proactively recruit candidates from various backgrounds and geographical locations. Choosing from a diverse candidate pool exposes the team to different cultures and enables you to engage talent in multiple countries.
  • Use objective criteria. When hiring, focus on objective criteria, such as the candidate’s skills, experience, and qualifications. Use objective information when making internal decisions for job promotions, employee relocations, or other professional development opportunities. 
  • Make accommodations. Make accommodations for employees living in different time zones or geographical situations, such as allowing them to work remotely or asynchronously. Also, offer market-specific supplemental benefits to help offset a higher cost of living.

Disclaimer: The intent of this document is solely to provide general and preliminary information for private use. Do not rely on it as an alternative to legal, financial, taxation, or accountancy advice from an appropriately qualified professional. © 2023 Velocity Global, LLC. All rights reserved.

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