On February 14, 2024, California State Senator Lola Smallwood-Cuevas introduced Senate Bill 1137 (“SB 1137”), a bill that would make California the first state to specifically recognize the concept of “intersectionality.” Smallwood-Cuevas has stated that SB 1137 “makes it clear that discrimination not only happens based on one protected class, such as race, gender or age, but any combination thereof.”

Specifically, SB 1137 would amend the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Fair Employment and Housing Act to make clear that these laws protect not only certain characteristics but also the “intersection or any combination of those characteristics.”

The concept of “intersectionality,” first popularized in 1989 by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, refers to discrimination based on multiple protected characteristics when both protected characteristics are present in a single identity. For example, a plaintiff may argue that she experienced unique discrimination based on both her race and her sex.

The concept of intersectionality also has appeared recently at the U.S. Supreme Court. In his majority opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County, 590 U.S. 644, 661 (2020), Justice Neil Gorsuch did not use the term “intersectionality” but did discuss how an employer might violate Title VII if it fired a female employee who was a “Yankees fan” yet “would have tolerated the same allegiance in a male employee.” Even if “two causal factors may be in play . . . [i]f an employer would not have discharged an employee but for that individual’s sex, [Title VII’s] causation standard is met, and liability may attach.” Id.

SB 1137 has been referred to the California State Senate Judiciary Committee, where it will be analyzed in advance of a hearing date where committee members can ask questions about the new bill. Follow the California Employment Law Update to monitor the ever-changing labor and employment law landscape, including whether SB 1137 makes it to law.

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Photo of Gregory Knopp Gregory Knopp

Gregory (Greg) Knopp is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department in the Los Angeles office.

Greg defends companies in class and collective actions and other complex disputes. He has argued successfully before state and federal courts across the country and…

Gregory (Greg) Knopp is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department in the Los Angeles office.

Greg defends companies in class and collective actions and other complex disputes. He has argued successfully before state and federal courts across the country and has obtained dismissals of class actions in dozens of high-profile, highly consequential matters.

Greg’s clients range from entertainment companies to prominent retailers to professional sports leagues. He has also worked with financial services and other professional services firms, along with clients in the technology, transportation and healthcare spaces. All look to Greg for his ability to quickly spot legal issues and to determine strategies to maximize advantage.

With more than 20 years of experience in employment litigation, Greg has represented clients in a wide range of employment disputes involving wage and hour issues, issues specific to California employment law, sexual harassment, and arbitration compulsion.

Photo of David Gobel David Gobel

David R Gobel is an associate in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Counseling Group.

David Gobel earned his J.D at USC Gould School of Law, where he was a Senior Citations Editor of the USC Journal of

David R Gobel is an associate in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Counseling Group.

David Gobel earned his J.D at USC Gould School of Law, where he was a Senior Citations Editor of the USC Journal of Interdisciplinary Law, and part of the executive committee of USC’s Music Law Society. Prior to law school, David worked as a research executive for a marketing research firm in New York.

Photo of Dixie Morrison Dixie Morrison

Dixie Morrison is an associate in the Labor & Employment Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration Group. She is a member of the Discrimination, Harassment, & Title VII and the Labor-Management Relations practice groups.

Dixie assists clients across a…

Dixie Morrison is an associate in the Labor & Employment Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration Group. She is a member of the Discrimination, Harassment, & Title VII and the Labor-Management Relations practice groups.

Dixie assists clients across a variety of industries in litigation and arbitration relating to wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage and hour, trade secrets, breach of contract, and whistleblower matters in both the single-plaintiff and class and collective action contexts. She also maintains an active traditional labor and collective bargaining practice and regularly counsels employers on a diverse range of workplace issues.

Dixie earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School, where she was the Executive Editor of Submissions for the Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law. Dixie received her B.A., magna cum laude, from Pomona College. Prior to law school, she served as a labor and economic policy aide in the United States Senate.