Friday, December 3, 2021

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace - Intersectionality's Role

Jamillah Bowman Williams, Maximizing #MeToo: Intersectionality & the Movement, 62 B.C. L. Rev. 1797 (2021).

This article addresses the intersectionality of identities in the context of sexual harassment, and how the failure to recognize the impact of this intersection results in responses to sexual harassment in the workplace that do not adequately protect women of color.  “Given the high rate at which women of color experience harassment and assault, the unique types of racialized sex harassment they experience, and the compounded forms of structural disadvantage they face in a range of domains, it is particularly important for anti-discrimination law to address their concerns.”  This is because, “the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism” and thus legal and social frameworks to address sexual harassment must “acknowledge the complex and overlapping web of racism and sexism.”  For example, current Title VII forces plaintiffs to choose whether to bring their discrimination case “because of race” or “because of sex” but not both, and “[e]mpirical research has found that plaintiffs bringing intersectional claims are less than half as likely as plaintiffs bringing single claims to win their cases.” Social reform movements have similarly fallen short.

Given broad access to social media, lower barriers to participation, and increased demands for an intersectional approach to feminism, #MeToo had the potential to have very inclusive participation across demographics, strong alliances, and coalitions, but the movement has fallen short of this opportunity.  The experiences of white affluent, and educated women have dominated the narrative with a focus on bringing down high-profile assailants [ ].

In response, Professor Williams proposes legal reform, organizational reform, and cultural reform to address the failure to account for intersectionality in the current response to sexual harassment.  “This strategy will benefit all victims of harassment and is particularly critical for women of color.”  Professor Williams warns that absent these “significant organizational and cultural changes, proposed legal remedies will continue to fail.”

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/gender_law/2021/12/sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace-intersectionalitys-role.html

Equal Employment, Gender, Race, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink

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