EEOC: Diploma Requirement May Violate ADA

Why Does This Agency Exist?

This is another absurd bit of prospective interference by government in the market, once again under the umbrella of the Americans With Disabilities Act, and again put forward in such a manner as to defy all logic.  At this point, it’s still just a discussion letter, but by now, you should realize that once the government begins to openly discuss an idea, t’s only a matter of time before they cram it down our throats.   I realize there are those who support the existence of the ADA, but frankly, I am not one of them, primarily because I have seen too many scam artists who avail themselves of the protections of such a law when no reasonable person would ever conclude they were “disabled” or otherwise honestly in need of the protections of such law. Do we really need government to be making these decisions?

These things always devolve into a scam. Always.  In this case, what they’re discussing is whether an employer requiring a High School Diploma as a screening criteria might violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, if they had been prevented from graduating High School because they had some learning disability covered under the act.  In the long run, I can see it being used by ne’er-do-wells who failed to finish high school as the means to bypass ordinary educational requirements.  I can see it already:  “I didn’t graduate because I had a learning disability.”  “Really, what was your learning disability?”  “I had an obsessive compulsive disorder that caused me to play hooky a lot, but you can’t ask me that.

Yes, this is real.  Yes, this is actually under discussion.  If I’m asking you for a High School diploma for a ditch-digging job, it’s because I’m going to need you to fill out all those lovely government forms before you can start. Seriously.  If you cannot complete High School due to a learning disability, or because you were simply a ne’er-do-well, what on earth makes you think you’re entitled to be considered for a job that requires much beyond basic manual labor?  What the EEOC is discussing is whether a High School diploma requirement is an unfair tool of discrimination.  Have you talked to some of the people who manage to graduate high school these days? At the current rate of depreciation of educational diplomas, one might want to ask for a doctorate before hiring somebody to flip burgers.  Call them “Hygienic Food Preparation Engineers.”  I probably shouldn’t make light of this, but I’m shocked at how ridiculous this has become.

I know that’s not fair to the bulk of High School graduates who earn their diplomas, but I’m not really talking about them.  More specifically, I mean some of the blooming morons who manage to complete High School.  The education system manages to pass through some people who it seems couldn’t complete middle school, much less high school, but then again, a high school diploma may signify more than simple learning.  It also says something about one’s basic willingness to comply with and conform to standards and rules, or at least it did in my day.

At my current day job, we screen out applicants for the entry-level positions on the basis of many things, and among them is the High School Diploma or GED.  Those new employees spend the first 4-6 weeks training full time before ever performing the actual job, because it’s specialized and requires the ability to rapidly gather information from many sources, manage multiple computers, redistribute that information rapidly, and follow very precise standards.  Even with the requirements, we have a 60% failure rate among trainees.  Why?  Clearly, it’s because many of the trainees don’t measure up on the simpler things, like showing up on time, or following directions, or relatively simple procedural performance measures.  One of the things we have seen over time is that those with GEDs are less likely to arrive on time, and follow conventions and norms, to the point that we have looked at simply saying GEDs need not apply, because their failure rate is greater than the average, and since we spend so much time and money training, it doesn’t make sense to pour it down a bottomless pit.

Based on what I know, I cannot imagine the case in which a learning disability that had prevented somebody from obtaining a High School diploma wouldn’t similarly prohibit them from performing the functions of these jobs in my organization.  More than that, however, I know how my organization is apt to respond to such a ruling if it were to effectively become the new regulatory norm:  They would spend hours amending their job requirements to rule out anybody who could not demonstrate the same level of competency without ever referencing a High School Diploma.  They will merely make it exhaustively clear that to successfully maintain employment in that job will require certain skills for which “high school diploma” has always been an effective short-hand.

Sure, Human Resources will spend time and effort on it, making sure we’ve complied in every way with the letter of the law, but the fact is that we already comply with its spirit.  Of course, we’re not a small business, but can you imagine this sort of thing being applied to them?  They don’t have staff devoted to these sorts of things, never mind an HR department.  This is the sort of preposterous, confounding,  job-killing regulation for which the government has no actual justification, except to make work for those who are engaged in these sorts of ‘discussion letters.’  Which brings me to my conclusion:  In further Job Openings at the EEOC, they should include a line in their criteria that states “Those possessing common sense need not apply.”

I’m sure it’s merely assumed at present.

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6 Responses to EEOC: Diploma Requirement May Violate ADA

  1. dnr says:

    Is this yet another way to skirt immigration laws as well?

  2. dnr says:

    Pressed reply too soon. Wanted to say that there are untold numbers of high school graduates who have been labeled "learning disabled." I was talking with a friend this week whose son has a variety of physical and learning issues. He was homeschooled for much of his school career, and when he was a senior in high school, he could have avoided the challenge of higher math and received a "certificate of completion" instead of a diploma. Because his parents and he recognized his potential would be severely limited with this alternative, and compounded by his lifetime physical and learning issues, she and he worked especially hard to master his math. She said sometimes it meant reviewing everything he had just learned in order to progress to the next day's topic. Her son was going to have to work harder for his diploma, but he did. It must have been exhausting for them both, but it was something that she will never regret.

    • MarkAmerica says:

      DNR, sounds like devoted parents. I think your larger point is correct: Learning disabilities need not be an obstacle to High School Diplomas in all cases.

  3. Adrienne says:

    When I taught religious ed at my church to the 7th – 12th graders, it was common for a 12th grader to not be able to write a complete sentence, spell, or punctuate. And these were the kids considered the top tier at our local high school. It was appalling. I can well imagine what a high school drop out would be capable of doing.

    I'm also tired of hearing about all these "disorders." I'm 66 and I have ADD. I also have two college degrees and received no help when I was in the lower grades since they really didn't even have a name to apply to what is just a different way of learning – NOT a disorder. Whenever they stick a name of something it's a way of getting money.

  4. As one who has taught those with learning differences over the past 40 years, I can categorically state that such differences do not interfere with getting a diploma.

    Certain things DO, of course, result in the denial of a diploma: completing the course of study (IEP's do accommodate those with learning differences), disciplinary infractions, AND teachers who don't have the proper skills to teach.

    If someone has serious learning differences (not speaking of low IQ here), then the parents of that child should homeschool that child. Believe me, there are wonderful homeschool networks out there, and in those networks you find professional teachers such as I who specialize in diagnostic and prescriptive teaching; it is this method that solves most of the academic problems resulting from all sorts of learning differences.

    You'll notice that I keep using the term "learning differences." I'm using that term because it is much more accurate than "learning disabilities." I have many successful graduates who were given up on by schools, public and private.

    Recommended reading: Be Different by John Elder Robison. Google search that name!