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Article > Equal opportunity
Description :: Maybe we shouldn't always spell things out
The laws that protect us from being "unfairly" (dis)qualified from a job have a serious flaw in my mind: they're too specific. They list plenty of things which are "off-limits" to employers: gender, race, creed, and so forth. That which is not listed, is allowed. I have no problem with the idea behind this law: to provide equal access to jobs by equally qualified applicants. My problem is entirely with the execution of this idea. I would be much happier if the law stated, quite simply, the following:

An employer may not discriminate against a potential employee on the basis of factors which are unrelated to the applicant's ability to perform the job in question; employers must further consider as equally able to perform the job in question applicants who require accommodation so long as the accommodation is not excessively expensive or difficult or unreasonable for the employer.

This retains the ADA's (somewhat vague) requirement that disabled persons be given a fair chance at a job if all they need is, say, text-reader software if they are blind, or wheelchair access, or certain days off, or some other accommodation. At the same time, it generalizes the rule to actually represent what the law was intended to do.

As an example: under the current law, you can discriminate against someone for being ugly. Under mine, you can only do so if the job function requires the person to not be ugly, and a cheap face-lift won't help. That lets movie studios and photographers employ only people that actually look like what they want. You need a black actor, or someone who can look black enough? Then hire a black person, or someone who can look black. Yes, it's based on skin color, but it's also based on the job itself. Need a priest? Hire someone who knows his stuff and can be expected to consistently deliver advice and guidance in accordance with your beliefs. Selecting the person based on creed might be going a bit far with my definition, yes. (And plenty of people will balk on that basis.) I, for one, don't care if my philosophy professor likes or agrees with Plato: if I hire him to teach me platonic philosophy, and he can do it effectively, then that's good enough. Need someone who speaks fluent spanish, russian, and italian? Then find what you're looking for. Don't go nosing around in what isn't important, and you'll be fine. Simple, no?

Obviously, I'm going to be said to be naive, idealistic, and overly trusting. Also, someone's going to say "hey, aren't you the one who always asks everyone to spell things out?" To that, at least, I can answer: as long as what you spell out is a good enough general rule, then it's just as good as (or better than) a long list of examples, exceptions, and so forth. And yes, I am in fact naive and idealistic on occasion. Darn.

[more later: maybe I do, in fact, have a problem with this law. maybe also with the missing law concerning selling services without regard to who the buyer is: how did we ever make segregation in buses and bathrooms go away? ... okay, that part was answered by reading Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as per the article on churches, marriage, and segregation. and then affirmative action, definitely worth a separate article. I still agree with myself.]

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Owned by Unordained - Created on 02/21/2004 - Last edited on 03/02/2004

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