Workplace fairness at the forefront: Organizational justice wins and losses in 2022

As we head into 2023, we must keep progressing toward a more just world of work.

Though it’s rarely referenced outside of academia, organizational justice provides a useful and relevant framework for assessing our progress towards a more fair and equitable world of work. Previously in “Chief Learning Officer,” we outlined how organizational justice can measure the effectiveness of diversity, equity and inclusion programs by providing an empirical means of assessing the fairness of decision-making practices, from hiring and firing to promotions and pay raises. 

While it’s become chic to publicly profess a commitment to DEI, many organizations are simply doing that (and little else). 

What is organizational justice? 

Simply put, organizational justice is the perception of fairness in the workplace. It has proven to be a predictor of essential outcomes such as employee job satisfaction, work effort and turnover intention. It can also be used as a framework to understand how and where companies need to invest time, resources and effort to create a more equitable workplace. 

According to an in-depth meta-analysis by Jason Colquitt et al, organizational justice can be broken down into three main components: distributive justice, procedural justice and interactional justice.

  • Distributive justice refers to the perceived fairness of outcomes (pay, promotion, performance evaluations, etc.).
  • Procedural justice refers to the perceived fairness of processes used to formulate outcomes, such as pay, promotion, etc.
  • Interactional justice refers to the perceived fairness of how people are treated, which can be broken down further into two questions: 1) Are people treated with dignity and respect? 2) How is information conveyed, if at all? 

The year that was in organizational justice: Wins and losses

Perhaps the best way to understand organizational justice is in the context of current events, so here’s our breakdown of some of the year’s biggest wins and losses for workplace fairness. We’re hoping this helps you read 2023’s workplace headlines with an elevated awareness of how we’re progressing towards a more just world of work.


Distributive justice

  • This past February, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team won a $24 million settlement in its class action equal pay lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation. Each member of the World Cup winning women’s team was paid less than their male counterparts, requiring the U.S. Soccer Federation to cough up $22 million in back pay and commit $2 million to a fund for USWNT players’ post-career goals and charitable efforts. Because of this new equal pay agreement, the men’s and women’s teams will each receive at least $6.5 million as a result of the men’s team advancing to the Round of 16 in this year’s World Cup. Incredibly, that’s more than the USWNT got for winning both the 2015 and 2019 World Cups combined ($6 million).
  • Employers in the Western World are beginning to institute menstrual leave policies for women, transgender men and non-binary individuals. In Girona, Spain, the city council voted overwhelmingly to allow women to take up to eight hours of menstrual leave a month. Furthermore, in May, Spain’s coalition government approved a draft proposal that would make it the first Western country to grant paid menstrual leave. 

Procedural justice

  • The New York legislature recently voted to make it illegal for employers to discipline someone for taking legally protected time off. Though the bill sounds like a no-brainer, some businesses were treating paid vacation absences equally with unpaid absences like jury duty and issuing demerits in accordance with no-fault absence policies

Interactional justice 

  • Like many in the tech sector, Robinhood was forced to lay off a large chunk of its workforce – 23% percent to be exact. But, unlike some execs, CEO Vlad Tenev communicated transparently about why the changes were necessary, took responsibility for the cuts, and offered wellness support to the departing “Robinhoodies” affected by the unsettling news. 


Distributive justice

  • A study by Lean In and McKinsey shows that women (especially women of color) are leaving jobs in record numbers to pursue better opportunities at companies that prioritize the issues that matter to them (e.g.flexibility, employee well-being and DEI). The study goes on to report that “for every 100 men who are promoted from entry-level roles to manager positions, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted.” 

Procedural justice

  • Sometimes referred to as “tattleware” or “productivity paranoia,” use of employee monitoring software is on the rise. Unfortunately, relying on surveillance programs to evaluate employee productivity has major downsides including resentment and lack of accuracy. Mounting resentment can create increased turnover and fuel toxicity and increased time “on the job” doesn’t make someone more effective. 

Interactional justice 

As 2023 quickly approaches, we hope you will apply the principles of organizational justice to your workplace policies and practices. Creating and maintaining a fair and equitable workplace can be difficult, but the outcomes are well worth the effort. Research has shown a healthy organization decreases burnout and increases productivity and revenue, among other things. To increase fairness where you work, check out the recommendations in our previous article on organizational justice here