Perfect Equal Opportunity

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was established forty years ago to address the various forms of discrimination affecting those desiring to work in this country. Discrimination reared its ugly head of denial in many ways — as to gender, religion, race, color, or national origin. As time passed, we finally recognized the injustices borne by other populations such as those with disabilities and older workers. Title VII addressed these and other restrictive practices that caused social loss as well as economic. The EEOC continues its work in parsing out what is legal and what is not, how a claim should be filed and which party has the burden of proof under certain circumstances. And we move along the path of progress in making a level playing field for all participants in the employment game.

The EEOC deals with employment. But let us look at raw equal opportunity in order to investigate the underpinnings of the ethical employment perspectives. Let us consider how the common denominator would be structured in order to determine whether some issue is fair or not fair.

Saturday morning I overheard the ultimate example of equal opportunity. I’ve seen it in play in a few other situations. But it was finally articulated in no uncertain terms. A brash young woman was quite loud and didn’t care how many could hear her matter-of-fact pronouncements as we jerked and lurched along the boulevard in an over-crowded bus. Another passenger was bumped and thrown about the aisle as there was only standing room left. The young woman shouted her warning, “I don’t care what you age is, your sex, or your abilities. It doesn’t matter how big you are or what disabilities you have. If you [insert personal accident], I’ll knock your block off.”

About two weeks before this moment in time, another young woman (who was not riding a bus at 3 AM) of a similar personality and demeanor had something interesting to say to her housemate. There was an issue with regard to who could use the occupied bathroom, compared with the one not in use on the other side of the hall. The shared use did not appear to be a major issue as one person was putting medication and wrappings on a sore while the other pressed and styled her hair.

But the one doing the hairstyling wanted the entire 100 square foot room to herself. She screamed a demand and threat. “Get out of here! I’ve already jacked up your left eye. If you don’t get out, I’ll do the same to the right eye. I’m already psychotic. But this time I’ll kill your a–. And I’ll use this hot, flat iron pressing comb to do it.” In other words, the speaker was completely aware of the harm she’d done before and had no remorse for her actions. In fact, she had no qualms about committing the same acts again, but to a heightened degree — to death. Like the passenger on the bus, the victim’s age and other qualifiers were of no concern. The only concern was the integrity the speaker wanted for her right to possess the space.

This type of thinking is quite simplistic. There is no good, no bad. Just entitlement to rights for the self. If we look at this reasoning in the employment industry, we can see that it would be the ideal starting point. It is entirely possible that the EEOC could be replaced if this type of thinking were universally used. The basic question would be, “Can you do the job?” If the answer is no, then you’re not hired and the search continues. If the answer is yes, then we allow the candidate to start but evaluate them very carefully. If they make a mistake, they’re out. After all, we can’t afford to keep paying for something someone cannot do and keep replacing the resources they’ve spoiled.

Is this fair to the newcomer, the one with little to no experience? Of course it is. The newbie should be watching and paying attention in order to gain understanding of what’s expected. If they dont’ understand, then they should be asking questions. More than that, they should be practicing so that they can do what’s necessary exactly as it’s supposed to be done. Don’t violate anyone else’s space. Don’t destroy resources. Just use what’s absolutely necessary and do what’s expected.

Who pays for the beating suffered by the one who accidentally steps on a foot or commits some other indisgression? We’d have to determine what the ethical issues are in order to make a determination. We’d have to find what the los is and its gravity compared with the punishment. But this is definitely a world of perfect equal opportunity.

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