The following situations are hypothetical. However, I invite you to read the following and submit your responses as comments to this post:
Participants in a workplace human rights workshop are provided with an overview of human rights law for the workplace. Then they are presented with the following scenario and asked to decide how they think the law applies to the situation described:
Two men are holding hands and occasionally kissing while waiting in line at a driver licensing office. A person waiting in line approaches the men calling them “fags” and telling them their behaviour is “disgusting”. The same person attempts to engage others waiting in the line to join in the demeaning discourse.
The workshop participants decide the following:
- The behaviour violates every person’s right to be free from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation
- The behaviour creates a poisoned work environment for the people working in this office
- The operator of this office (in this case the government) has a legal responsibility to intervene and demand that the person stop making the comments
- The staff, especially managers, acting on behalf of the employer, have an obligation to intervene in this situation
Do you agree or disagree with the findings of these workshop participants?
Why or why not?
The following is a transcript of a conversation that took place between the workshop instructor and a participant following the exercise above:
Participant: You’re telling us that these two men have the right to file a complaint because they were offended by the other guy’s comments, calling them “fags” and whatever, right? Because they are gay, right?
Instructor: Right. Furthermore, I am telling you that the employer, the operator of this office (the government), has a legal duty to intervene and stop the behaviour.
Participant: Okay, well I’m not gay. What if I found the men’s behaviour to be offensive to me because I’m straight and I asked them to stop? They could file a complaint against me, right?
Instructor: Remember that anyone can file a human rights complaint. A complaint against you may be successful if you were being derogatory or demeaning.
Participant: So, the gay guys are protected if they are offended by people’s comments about them, but I am not protected if I am offended by these guys touching and kissing in public. “I’m tired of this reverse discrimination.”
Can you spot the major differences between the two scenarios presented?
What do you think reverse discrimination means?
Post your responses as comment to this blog entry. I will write further about the topic of reverse discrimination in two weeks. Stay tuned.