Friday, September 24, 2004

from today's Globe &Mail - human rights at the workplace

"human rights characteristics" - this phrase caught my eye and made me read usually skipped page of the Globe - its career section.

The article presents an experts from a Stephen Hammond book Managing Human Rights at Work: 101 Practical Tips how to Prevent Human Rights Disasters.
The above mentioned phrase was used in the context of amounts argument about 'covert discrimination'.
He writes
When people think about discrimination, they usually think about direct discrimination -- as in, "I won't hire any women."

However, discrimination can also be indirect. It's characterized by an employer with a policy that applies to everyone equally but has an undue negative impact on those with certain human rights characteristics.

Let's say your policy is, "I'll hire only people at least six feet tall." Not only does this discriminate against people under six feet, it negatively impacts women more than men.

As well, it negatively impacts men and women from regions where individuals are typically not as tall as in Canada. Height is not a protected human rights ground, but sex, ancestry and place of origin are.

But what if you need tall people for your workplace? If you can justify it as a legitimate job requirement, you are in a better position (emphasis mine). This is often referred to as a bona fide occupational requirement. If your rule lacks merit and someone challenges it, the jig is up

What's interesting about it is the vague phrase "a better position".
To my understanding it implies that if the employer can successfully argue that this or that requirement is essential for the job he's merely scored more points in the battle with the human rights industry. In other words, he may still get busted as soon as the requirement in question is deemed insignificant to the job. And the questioning would unlikely be motivated by the genuine belief that the reasoning behind the requirement are no longer valic but rather by the zelous belief in social engineering.
We've seen it already - sometime ago I read a long thread at the rabble in which an experienced firefighters complained that women are now exempt from essential tests (e.g. carry the heaviest member of your squad) in the name of promoting employment equity (which again just means at least in some cases 'fairness' trumps merit).
Which gets me to sum it up as follows - employment equity seems to be a wonderful thing, no doubt, as long as somebody else is paying for it...


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