The Spectacle Blog

No Diploma Necessary

By on 1.6.12 | 7:25AM

In the latest bit of politically-correct economically-ignorant insanity to come from Washington, D.C., the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) -- an organization which should (but won't) be at the top of any Republican president's list to eliminate -- has opined that employers may be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if they require that potential employees have a high school diploma.

The concept is supposedly that an inability to graduate from high school might be a symptom of a learning disability, and a disabled person can't be disadvantaged in getting a job.

The confused thinking from EEOC seems to overlook the fact that an inability to graduate from high school probably represents something important about a person and that, from an employer's point of view, the reason someone didn't graduate usually is not and need not be important. Even if it were of modest importance, making a hiring process more complicated is an unjustifiable expense for most companies.

The impact of the EEOC's "informal discussion letter" can only be bad for employers and for the future of high school education.

For employers, they may fear being forced to hire a stupid or incompetent employee because that person claims his inability to graduate was due to a disability. Perhaps the EEOC thinks we all live at Lake Wobegon, where all children are above average.

Educationally, it diminishes the incentive for marginal students to finish school, something which would not only be good for their brains but is also important to show troubled or only modestly intelligent kids that persistence is a valuable trait and strategy for life.

And just as there is a cottage industry of doctors who will sign a medical marijuana prescription for any reason at all as long as the "patient" has cash, we will see a cottage industry of psychologists, therapists, and psychiatrists who will certify a slacker or a moron (sorry, EEOC, those people really exist) as disabled so that he can be forced down the throat of an unwilling employer.

The EEOC's letter says that an employer can only use a "standard, test, or other selection criteria" to screen potential employees if the standard is "job related… and consistent with business necessity."

More from the letter: 

Thus, if an employer adopts a high school diploma requirement for a job, and that requirement "screens out" an individual who is unable to graduate because of a learning disability that meets the ADA's definition of "disability," the employer may not apply the standard unless it can demonstrate that the diploma requirement is job related and consistent with business necessity. The employer will not be able to make this showing, for example, if the functions in question can easily be performed by someone who does not have a diploma.

Even if the diploma requirement is job related and consistent with business necessity, the employer may still have to determine whether a particular applicant whose learning disability prevents him from meeting it can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation. It may do so, for example, by considering relevant work history and/or by allowing the applicant to demonstrate an ability to do the job's essential functions during the application process. If the individual can perform the job's essential functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation, despite the inability to meet the standard, the employer may not use the high school diploma requirement to exclude the applicant. However, the employer is not required to prefer the applicant with a learning disability over other applicants who are better qualified.

Imagine the growth in the far-beyond-cottage industry of lawyers suing companies for "discrimination".

What is an employer to do if his every hiring decision is subject to EEOC scrutiny and his having to prove (not being given the benefit of the doubt) that a non-high school graduate is less likely to do a good job than a graduate? More fundamentally, why should an employer have to justify his hiring decisions to anyone?

What does "reasonable accommodation" mean? How much does the EEOC think a private company should be required to spend to hire someone with a disability when hiring someone else would not require such expense? This opinion -- indeed this entire agency -- is the ultimate in government having no concept of cost-benefit analysis, which is the world that the rest of us have to live in if we're not to go bankrupt. Alternatively, perhaps they simply have a truly twisted approach to the value of the "benefits" their tyranny brings to a select few.

Consider the last EEOC sentence quoted above: "However, the employer is not required to prefer the applicant with a learning disability over other applicants who are better qualified." This implies that the employer is required to prefer the applicant with a learning disability over other applicants who are equally qualified. How is that fair to the majority of high school dropouts who are not learning-disabled? Furthermore, given that there can be extenuating circumstances which cause smart, motivated kids to drop out of school, such as dire family situations which require their help, it is more likely for an employer to find a diamond-in-the-rough employee among dropouts who are not learning disabled than among those who are.

In short, employers are generally prevented by this EEOC opinion from considering a high school diploma as a sign of a qualification for a job. This is, of course, a position that nobody who understands the real world would ever think reasonable.

Employers are not tools of the state to be used to achieve leftist social engineering. They are entrepreneurs who risk their (or their investors') money trying to provide goods and/or services at a profit. Bad employees, a category into which a high school dropout seems more likely to fit than others might, make that fundamental task of business much more difficult. One can imagine a situation in which being forced to take on a bad employee would remove the financial wherewithal of a small business to hire a better employee, damaging customers, shareholders, and future potential growth and hiring.

To be clear, I don't argue that people without high school diplomas can't be good or even great employees. But in businesses that require a reasonably well-developed cerebrum and a modicum of discipline, not having a diploma represents a real likelihood of someone either not being as smart or not being as motivated as someone who graduated. It's no surprise that the only group of Americans who seem to lose jobs or have substantial wage pressures due to illegal aliens are those without high school diplomas (though even that relationship is the subject of some debate.) For the benefit of our nation's future, there should be the substantial risk of a substantial, perhaps even life-long penalty for not finishing school. The last thing this nation needs is a government policy reducing the incentive to graduate.

The EEOC's website is full of lawsuits they've brought against private companies for various claimed discriminations, whether age-based, race-based, or disability-based. It's as if they believe their job is to punish companies for not being sensitive enough to the left's politically correct but economically ignorant views about how business works. And when the government is coming after you, what's a company to do other than settle, pay a fine, and allow the government to change their hiring decisions -- which they presumably made in the best interest of shareholders?

The EEOC is, like the National Labor Relations Board, out of control. It needs to be stopped, or preferably eliminated. It is not the government's job to choose winners and losers among employees any more than it is to give unions leverage on private companies. It is time for employers to fight back against the overbroad interpretations of the ADA, not just because the EEOC and courts are harming businesses across the country and creating entire new classes of plaintiffs and low-life attorneys chasing their next victims, but because the word private in private enterprise must return to meaning something before our economic liberty is entirely lost to the do-gooders' fascism.

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