If Wishes Were Horses —

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I can understand why a firm might hire a handicapped person. It could be nothing more than good public relations; that’s OK. It could even be a genuine concern and sympathy for an unfortunate human being, which is positively laudable.

It is even easier to understand why a firm might NOT hire a handicapped person. There are few jobs for which a handicapped person is better suited than an able-bodied one, obviously. In addition, modifications might be required to the workplace so that the handicapped person could even enter the premises, use the toilet facilities, answer the phone, etc.

What I cannot understand is why the firm’s hiring policies should be of concern to anyone save the firm itself, and its prospective employees. Of course, a third party — the government — has inserted itself into the picture, and this eliminates the element of voluntarism, which, oddly, the government claims to regard so highly. It has also mandated, it would seem, an unctuous hypocrisy about the whole handicapped-hiring business.

A story in the local newspaper told us of Richard Davis, who worked for Wal-Mart. He was, we read, a good employee, with a good work record. For reasons undisclosed, he quit his job, but now he would like to work for Wal-Mart again. Unfortunately, all the jobs for which he is qualified are filled. Sorry.

Davis was suspicious. He sent his "girlfriend" (they have a child together) to apply for the same job; she was told the openings are available. Aha! Discrimination, says Davis, who is substantially handicapped, having been born without most of his arms, and, of course, no hands. Amazingly, he has been able to do some jobs, however, with his feet, even to repairing VCRs. He’s hired a lawyer, and filed complaints with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, and with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

(In passing, isn’t it amazing how tyranny disguises itself with words? Since when is working where you please a human right? And where is the "equal opportunity" in being forced to hire a worker you would rather not hire?)

If Davis’s actions are understandable, given today’s political climate, so, sadly, are Wal-Mart’s, at least to the extent that we know them through the newspaper report. It is apparently choosing to pretend that the intrusion of government into its affairs is, if not proper, at least inevitable. Its spokesman said, "We do not discriminate and the evidence of that is the fact that we hired Mr. Davis the first time." Even if true, it sounds hollow.

I hope I live long enough to hear a firm accused of discrimination in hiring respond by saying, "You’re damn right we discriminate. We always have and always will. We hire whom we choose for whatever reasons we want. It is the government that is discriminating against us." That would be a dangerous "defense," of course, but why should one defend oneself against the absurd and unlawful? Does any firm, for example, ever challenge Uncle’s jurisdiction? If you’re likely to lose in court anyway, why not go down defiant, and not whining?

And what if large firms throughout the nation adopted a similar policy, and a similar "defense?" The lesson of prohibition seems to be lost on us. Establishments caught selling alcohol didn’t piously insist that they weren’t actually doing what they were doing; the patrons didn’t claim that there was no booze in their glasses. It was obvious, on the contrary, that neither night club, bar, saloon, etc., not patrons had any intention of obeying Uncle’s foolish "law." And eventually, even Uncle got the message, and gave up.

Of course, things are different today. Uncle is happy to fight un-winnable wars, such as the war on drugs, the war on terrorism, or even the war on disability, because it employs so many people, increases government control over so many more citizens, and justifies such enormous spending. This has nothing to do with a concern for "social justice," rather it reflects a concern for a collapsing economy, and a last-ditch effort to pump it up and keep it floundering along, at least until the next election.

Even so, it would be refreshing — even revitalizing — to hear someone speak the plain unvarnished truth!

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a semi-retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.

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