Disparate impact: He who forgives is unforgivable

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Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

THE modern office has all the conveniences and latest technologies. There’s a switch for this and a switch for that. However, there’s still a need for someone to invent a switch that works against the wrongful hiring of people. Why not? Bad hiring creates a huge amount of losses for the company, and to the concerned worker and also to his family.

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Think about the children and the worker’s when someone is preempted by his dismissal from employment. That’s why hiring managers do a lot of things to ensure that they hire only the best and the brightest on this side of the world.

One of the approaches being done by organizations is to create a “disparate impact” by listing down certain job requirements like age, gender, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or religion that could result in unfair discrimination of certain groups of people.

To avoid being challenged in court, employers must be able to prove business necessity such as requiring the minimum age at 21 if the job requires a worker to serve alcohol in a bar, or being female to work as a sales lady in a lingerie department.

The trouble is that the disparate impact can be a form of reverse discrimination in some ways. It benefits a lot of greedy, unscrupulous employers. They hire only people from a certain religious group known to frown against trade unionism. If not, they hire disabled people who, for obvious reasons, can’t stage a walk-out. Or hire senior citizens who have a lot of time to spare but are required to waive medical benefits.

If you’re an ordinary job applicant, you are to miss the disparate impact because many of these job requirements are not written in black and white, but only at the back of every employer’s mind. Even with a good explanation or even if the hiring managers bother to explain, there will be questions that will linger in your mind except that you don’t want to raise them anymore.

After all, many of those who fail in life often pursue the path of least persistence (not resistance). Perhaps it is something that borders on stupidity.

But why can’t organizations choose people who are known rebels, in the hope they can blossom to become responsible leaders in their own right? Why can’t they give a second chance to those who were dismissed from previous service for incompetence? Or even those who have criminal records? If voters are giving the Marcoses a second chance by electing them to office, then why can’t they give the same opportunity to ordinary wage earners?

The easy and simple answer is that – employers don’t want to take any chances. Besides, the job market is still dominated by employers who offer few opportunities to millions of job applicants.

But let’s take this seriously. Let’s push Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s bill of prohibiting public officials to escape liability for misdeeds during their prior terms. Santiago is right. Elected officials should be required to answer administratively (and maybe criminally) for their illegal acts committed in their preceding terms. Apparently, this is in answer to Makati Mayor Junjun Binay’s argument that he should not be held liable for alleged corruption prior to his current term of office.

Mayor Binay cited a Supreme Court ruling that a public official could not be removed administratively for misconduct committed during a prior term, as reelection is said to condone the official’s misconduct during the said term. Senator Santiago claims, however, that this would lead to a “ludicrous” situation.

If the likes of Mayor Binay, who has all the resources and power at his fingertips, can benefit from that Supreme Court ruling, then how come a lowly job applicant who is stigmatized for life cannot be given a second chance?

Now, let’s have some fun. Take a look at two of life’s unnerving activities in this country – job hunting and mud-slinging (err, election campaigning.) In some ways, we can learn from each activity that involves searching for the best candidate. If the employer or the electorate committed a mistake in choosing the best candidate, it can be costly for the organization or the country.

Job applicants can’t do much else but polish their CVs to make them attractive to employers. For electoral candidates, however, even those with criminal records and without college background are elected into office, as long as they know how to sing, dance, and kiss babies in wet markets.

And so the injustice continues . . .

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.

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