Direct discrimination occurs where one person is treated less favourably on grounds such as sex and gender, age, nationality, race, ethnicity, religion or belief, health, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, than another person is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation. Less favourable treatment of a woman on grounds of pregnancy or maternity leave is direct discrimination against women.
Note: Though this definition suggests that a person who is treated less favourably should be compared to another person who is in a comparable situation, European case law (made up of judgments by the Court of Justice of the European Union) indicates that when a person has been put at a disadvantage for being a woman or man, this constitutes discrimination and the notion of a comparable situation is not required.
See also: indirect discrimination
European Commission (2010). EU Gender Equality Law: Update 2010. European Network of Legal Experts in the Field of Gender Equality.