What is intersectional discrimination and why should you care?

The EEOC has issued new guidance on national origin discrimination.
The EEOC has issued new guidance on national origin discrimination.

Despite what you may think this has nothing to do with deciding who goes first at a four-way stop. This is an EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) term that has received new emphasis in the PROPOSED Enforcement Guidance on National Origin Discrimination document released in early June. You need to be aware of this and all of the other things contained in this document.

Intersectional discrimination

Intersectional discrimination “occurs when someone is discriminated against because of the combination of two or more protected bases (e.g. national origin and race).” According to the document “Because intersectional discrimination targets a specific subgroup of individuals, Title VII prohibits, for example, discrimination against Asian women even if the employer has not also discriminated against Asian men or non-Asian women.” In other words even if you can show you don’t discriminate against women or Asian men, you can still be accuse discriminating against Asian women (substitute whatever two categories you wish.) In fact, in a foot note, they say that the fact that no discrimination has been shown to either men or race is irrelevant in a case of intersectional discrimination.
According to the EEOC “Employment discrimination motivated by a stereotype about two or more protected traits would constitute intersectional discrimination.”  Thus those comments or jokes about the driving ability of Asian women, etc. would be evidence of intersectional discrimination.

Why should you care?

The EEOC claims that this document is designed to clear up and provide guidance to employers and courts on the area of National Origin discrimination. They suggest that employers can reduce the risk of discriminatory employment decisions by developing objective, job-related criteria for identifying the unsatisfactory performance or conduct that can result in discipline, demotion, or discharge. They even suggest a progressive discipline policy.
This whole guidance document, all 60 pages of it is what they will be using to interpret your actions in the future. Here is their conclusion of the document:

The increased cultural diversity of today’s workplaces presents new and evolving issues with respect to Title VII’s protection against national origin discrimination. Once issued, the Commission’s national origin enforcement guidance will assist EEOC staff in their investigation of national origin discrimination charges and provide information for applicants, employees, and employers to understand their respective rights and responsibilities under Title VII.

It might help you if you read Gwendolyn Morales’ post entitled EEOC Releases Draft Guidance Regarding National Origin Discrimination in which she explains the broader scope of the EEOC’s document. Happy reading. By the way if you wish to comment on this you only have until July 1, 2016. They only allowed 30 days and they issued this on June 2nd.

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