Identity at Work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


U.S. antidiscrimination law may be perceived as an economy of identities: in order to receive protection from discrimination, a group must prove that it is—in fact—a group, and that as such it deserves special treatment, to “jump the queue” in front of other wronged individuals and to have its interests favored. This article explores recognition’s role in regulating workplace conduct, as well as its hidden costs. It offers the concept of liminally-recognized groups, i.e., groups still in the process of acquiring recognition, as a methodological lens through which to assess recognition’s relationship to identities and the law. Liminally-recognized groups’ struggle to meet—and carry—the burden of recognition prompts the developments of alternative strategies to advance workplace justice. <br>The first part provides a detailed typology of liminally-recognized groups within U.S. antidiscrimination law, exploring in depth three such groups: asexuals, poor whites, and fat people. Their stories illuminate the specific type of work required for securing recognition and its effects. The second part reconsiders recognition from a normative standpoint, assessing the benefits and costs of recognition. The third part presents two alternatives for promoting workplace justice: (1) non-identitarian readings of antidiscrimination laws; and (2) universal workplace protections: focusing on the potential of labor law and union power to provide a pioneering route for liminally-recognized groups. Harnessing the power of social movements into workers’ power could provide a path for workplace equity not contingent upon workers’ identity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBerkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law
Issue number1
StatePublished - 22 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • identity
  • recognition
  • antidiscrimination law
  • labor law


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