We hear the term “intersectionality” a lot these days – particularly from those advocating for the rights of people who have long faced discrimination. The term recognizes that we are all members of different groups – often simply based on how we were born.
Unfortunately, when people are members of more than one marginalized group, they can face what’s called “intersectional discrimination.” That means they may face double or triple the discrimination they’d face if they only had one such characteristic.
For example, Black women, handicapped people born in other countries and older Muslim people are among those who could face intersectional discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere, even though race, gender, religion, nationality and disability are all protected classes here in Florida. Although sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected under our state’s employment laws, they can certainly still play a part in intersectional discrimination.
The challenges of being in two (or more) marginalized groups
One study published in 2020 noted that older women are particularly vulnerable in the workplace due to intersectional discrimination – to the point where they often leave the workforce completely. They’re protected under federal as well as state laws. However, courts have typically required people to choose one basis for discrimination rather than recognize a case of intersectional discrimination.
This can be difficult if you’re facing discrimination fueled by people’s negative feelings or false beliefs about people with your characteristics. Black women often talk about facing discrimination and harassment but say it can sometimes be hard to pinpoint whether it’s gender- or race-based.
Unless people are using slurs or saying things related to a specific trait, anyone facing intersectional discrimination can face that same problem. That doesn’t mean you can’t take action to protect your rights in the workplace. It can help to have experienced legal guidance.