Are the various anti-discrimination laws that exist around the world only paper tigers or is there any way in which they can be enforced? Let's say a company doesn't want to hire "insert minority here", they can always claim the person just wasn't a good fit. Of course if the person explicitly states they don't want to hire a woman like in this example(HLGEM answer) it is easy. But if the company has the slightest brains they can discriminate all they want and nothing will happen to it. Is this right or am I missing something?
You cannot easily extrapolate individual cases to larger numbers. Sure, if there is a single job opening, with two candidates, a man and a woman, and the former gets the job, it may be hard to prove discrimination.
But if there isn't a single woman found under its 1000 employees, something is clearly up. You can also compare salaries that way -- while it's hard to prove discrimination if you compare the salaries of two individuals, you can show statistical significant differences if you can compare hundreds or thousands of employees.
As with any law, the enforcement of the law is not guaranteed to be 100% effective. A relative of mine in law enforcement once sighed that "we mostly catch people who make dumb mistakes". Companies sometimes say blatantly discriminatory things in front of witnesses, or write them down on paper or in email.
In the United States, a law suit comes with powers of discovery. That is, you can force the company to disclose relevant records in court. For example, you could ask to see the completed applications of successful applicants and compare those to the plaintiff's application. If the successful applicants are notably less qualified than the plaintiff, that might be evidence of discrimination. Or there may be statistical evidence showing a pattern of not hiring qualified members of the protected class.
The company could claim "just not a good fit", but then they could be required to articulate what their standards are for "good fit". The court can consider whether those standards are discriminatory in themselves, or examine the company's records to see if those "good fit" standards are uniformly applied to all candidates.
In the US, discrimination is a civil matter, meaning that if it goes to trial it will be decided "by a preponderance of the evidence", not "proof beyond a reasonable doubt"
In fact, winning a discrimination lawsuit in court is not easy. Workers win only 1% of federal civil rights lawsuits at trial. Employers win about 14%. The remainder reach some sort of settlement before the trial concludes.
It's not true that laws are useless if they cannot always be enforced.
First of all, a law against certain types of discrimination makes it abundantly clear that such discrimination is wrong and illegal. So there is a good chance that an employer who always insisted on hiring good white boys between 25 and 30 looks at these laws and figures out, just be themselves, that they are doing something wrong and changes what they are doing.
Second, lots of people don't want to do illegal things - because they are illegal. So making discrimination illegal immediately reduces how often it happens.
Third, there is no such thing as "a company" making a decision. It's people. So this black lady has made it to a job interview and is doing really well. And after the interview one of the interviewers says "she was the best candidate, but we're not going to hire her because she is black, and a woman on top of that". Then the other interviewer might say "I have a problem with that. It's illegal to reject her for being a black woman. And you just said she was the best candidate. If this went to court, and I was questioned about it, I wouldn't lie in court to support illegal discrimination".
Even if the other interviewer doesn't say this, the first one may think that this is what the other one might do. Discrimination becomes risky. Someone who doesn't like either black people or women might see the discrimination as a little thing, but having to stand in a court and lie is criminal to most people. Racists don't like lying in court more than other people. And the chance of being caught lying is even worse.