The Social Construction of “What's Fair” at Work1


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    The author wishes to thank Patricia Ferguson for her assistance in the design and execution of this study and Louise Kidder for her thoughtful comments on the manuscript.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Michelle Fine, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, 3700 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104.


This paper examines how the public views an act of discrimination as a consequence of the social context in which the injustice occurs and as a function of how the victim rcsponds. Results indicate that a context that offers grievance procedures to workers who feel unjustly treated enhances the public's perception of injustice if the victim decides not to file a grievance or if the victim files a grievance and wins. The victim who loses her or his claim is derogated and the act of discrimination justified. Implications for policy and public opinion on sex and race discrimination cases are examined.