PROTECTING COLLECTIVE VOICE AND PROMOTING
COOPERATION IN THE WORKPLACE
We have seen that the law that governs the demographics of the workplace and that aims to promote intergroup equality—what I have called “the equal protection clause” of the workplace—produces both intended and unintended effects on intergroup relations and the quality of workplace interactions. Let us now extend our inquiry to the law that affects workplace interactions and relationships among co-workers generally. What could the law do to enrich the capacity of workplaces to foster constructive co-worker interactions and relations within what we hope will be demographically integrated workforces?
What follows skips across the surface of a vast landscape of labor and employment law. Even more than my foray into the law of intergroup equality, this is offered as a quick tour of some sites of interest and a glance down some of the possible pathways of reform. We will begin by looking for some footholds in existing law for the promotion of informal sociability, cooperation in the work itself, and the sharing of workplace concerns among co-workers.
Viewed through the lens of existing law, the three kinds of social interaction we wish to foster begin to diverge. For example, it is hard to find a foothold in existing law for the project of affirmatively promoting informal sociability among co-workers. There is a whisper of support in the emerging law—mostly state common law—recognizing individual employee “privacy” rights, for privacy rights, where they extend beyond the protection of bodily integrity, have always been mostly about the protection of relationships. 1 However, the emerging law of employee privacy rights is largely confined to the protection of off-duty activities and relationships. 2 That law bears a closer look, but it does not provide an especially sturdy platform from which to launch an affirmative effort to protect sociability within the workplace.