Why do this stuff piecemeal by continuing to break it out into separate categories of race, religion, gender, etc? If we’re worried about hurt feelings interfering with an employee’s ability to do his or her job, it makes no sense to ban fat jokes but allow jokes about hairstyle or clothing, say. Just impose a blanket ban on workplace insults and non-merit-based hiring.
In case Jim Treacher, Opie & Anthony’s most stalwart defender, should read this, this one’s for you, Treach:
Rep. Byron Rushing, a Boston Democrat who is sponsoring the Massachusetts bill, said it’s a question of civil rights.
“This is one of the last physical aspects of people that you can acceptably laugh about,” said Rushing, who is black, slim and of average height. “You can be a shock jock on the radio and talk about fat people for a solid week and no one would ever think of having you lose your job. It’s still acceptable.”
Well, we’d better change that ASAP, hadn’t we?
The issue here is how much of themselves people should reasonably be expected to change to fit in at work. Rushing proposes physical aspects as the limiting principle, but that doesn’t work when you consider that all anti-discrimination laws protect religion, too. What accounts for the religion exception? Could be the unique constitutional protection it receives from the Free Exercise Clause, although in that case, per the Free Speech Clause, shouldn’t it also be discrimination to refuse to hire a political opponent? It could also be the sense that religion is key to one’s “core” identity and therefore it’s simply immoral to ask them to suppress it, although the political analogy applies there too — and what’s more, so does my hypothetical about insulting someone for their fashion sense. What you wear is an expression of your “self”; why whould anyone be allowed to denigrate it?
I think the trend is in favor of the latter interpretation, in which case expect to see anti-discrimination laws expand in the future.