Washington University Journal of Law & Policy
Knowing that work is a site of intimacy between coworkers does not tell us--as lawyers and public policy designers--what should change to accommodate this new knowledge. Rosenbury rightly emphasizes that this deeper understanding of intimate networks at work should enrich and modify our pursuit of antidiscrimination norms in the workplace. On the one hand, we might wish to allow friends to prefer one another at work in order to reinforce the social institution of friendship that does so much to sustain us. On the other hand, the dangers of homophily--the robust sociological finding that we tend to sort ourselves into intimate networks of people like ourselves--become apparent when we see that courts are less likely to find sex-based or racial discrimination when someone at work prefers a friend, even though those preferred friends are most likely to be of the same race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and nationality as the ones defending themselves from charges of discrimination. Rosenbury focuses us on this dilemma, but doesn't furnish us with any comforting answers. In the spirit of this forum, I have two thoughts to share to supplement Rosenbury's provocative (though precatory) work in this volume. My hope is that these comments are useful to the ultimate research agenda Rosenbury will pursue in forthcoming papers about intimacy in the workplace.
Ethan J. Leib,
Work Friends: A Commentary on Laura Rosenbury's Working Relationships, 35 Wash. U. J. L. & Pol'y 149
Available at: http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/faculty_scholarship/89