Home > Public Service, The Outsiders > EEOC Says Requiring a High School Diploma May Violate the Law

EEOC Says Requiring a High School Diploma May Violate the Law

The Washington Times reports that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission posted an “informal discussion letter” on its website December 2, warning employers that requiring prospective employees to have a high school diploma may run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the Times, employers could violate the ADA by screening out those individuals unable to complete a high school degree due to a learning disability that meets the ADA’s statutory definition of “disability.”

I will, for the moment, forego discussion of the most obvious problem: with an economy in the doldrums and real unemployment sky high, bureaucrats in Washington are doling out heaping helpings of uncertainty to the marketplace, making it difficult to know which practices are acceptable and which will be interpreted as against the law.  And when employers are uncertain of what they can and cannot do, the default is to avoid even the possibility of problems.  In this case, that means they will avoid hiring.

As important as I think this criticism is, I also believe the EEOC’s guidelines – which thankfully do not carry the force of law at the current time – are indicative of another problem, which I can illustrate using myself as an example.

I am an attorney, and with my law license, I am a[n unwilling] member of a cartel.  I was required to finish a terminal law degree, and then required to pass a three-day examination. One may wonder what the difference between requiring a high school diploma and a law degree is, or how, if disabilities cause you to fail your tests in high school, they would not also cause you to fail the bar exam.

And yet the EEOC seems not to care about the law profession (or about doctors, psychologists, dentists, etc.) and its relation to the non-exclusionary implications of the ADA. Why is that?

My thought is that it is because lawyers (and doctors, psychologists, dentists, etc.) have their own comfy little cartel. With the imprimatur of the government – both in individual state licensing schemes and the nationwide aegis of the American Bar Association and its school accreditation scheme – lawyers are exempted from still further meddling by such entities as the EEOC.  The EEOC considers the law cartel “one of us.”

And yet, what of the effect on the rest of “them”?  The cartelization typical of professional occupations like law, as well as the zealous restrictions on all other professions by Washington bureaucracies does not tend to help the vast masses of people who are seeking jobs.

On the contrary, the regulations are drawn up to do the exact opposite: if you are already a member of the cartel or securely in a job, you are generally unaffected.  If you are not, you are getting ever more difficult to hire.  Institutions like the EEOC claim that they are run in the interest of the public. But when a large chunk of the public is looking for work and being blocked by bureaucratic policies, it seems more likely that the EEOC is run in the interest of the EEOC.

Which is fine if you are on the inside, but not if you are on the outside looking in.

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