Saturday, January 30, 2010

Is asking for 'reliable' workers discriminatory?

In England, an employer was placing a wanted ad asking for reliable and hard-working employees, but was told that she could not do so because it discriminated against non-reliable applicants.

On one hand, isn't being hard-working and reliable kind of important to find and maintain employment?

On the other, I may not be as reliable as a worker without dependents... should I be penalized for having children without a grandma or neighbor available to babysit when kids are too sick to go to school?

I'm wondering what other people think. And I would be very interested to hear a coherent argument as to why it might be discriminatory to ask for reliable and hard working employees.


  1. I came over from feministe, and this is an interesting question. on the one hand, I refuse to accept that someone with dependents isn't reliable. that's an anti-mother/anti-woman stereotype that needs to go away right now. and on the other-doesn't the definition of descrimination specficially include "non-relevant to the job characteristics" or something like that? I suppose it depends on your definition of reliable, but I fail to see how you could argue that isn't important to the job. I suppose there are some jobs that it doesn't matter when/where you work, you could get it done anywhere, and being in a particular office building from 8-5 is not actually relevant to the job. but most things service industry-you need to be there when you say you will. otherwise the company can't keep it's promises. that's one definition of reliable, and the first situation, I suppose you could argue it's not relevant. but you could also argue that reliable means "I get done what I say I will" so still relevant.

  2. also what is the definition of an inherently non-reliable person? this would also be an issue for a discrimination argument, I'd think. most people are reliable sometimes for some things but not others. so is that reliable or not?

  3. this was all a non-story from the start, got up by the daily mail to enrage its readers and give them something to tut about in the pub (do they go to the pub?).

    we brits are too ready to believe in these PC bogey-men. get a life.

  4. sorry - I didn't add any evidence...

    look at the quote at the BOTTOM of the story:

    The Equality and Human Rights Commission added: 'This is in no way in breach of any discrimination law.

    'Mrs Mamo should consider very unreliable any advice that she may have received implying that this aspect of her advert was discriminatory.'

    but I guess the reader isn't expected to get that far...

  5. kb- I agree, especially with the the comment that perceptions of mothers as unreliable have to change right now... thank you for pointing that out.

    Tim, thank you for your input as well. I saw that quote (yes, I do read to the bottom of a story before commenting on it). I just had trouble seeing how this is discrimination when I can usually see both sides of an argument, so I figured it was a good avenue for other opinions on the subject.

  6. It wasn't discrimination. This entire thing is part of the "PC gone mad" narrative of the far right press in Britain. There was no complaint of the thing being discriminatory, it was merely made up by the person who claimed to have been asked not to use that poster so as to act as a form of advertising for their business- in this way it is not too different from a case where a slightly unsuccessful pig farmer turned things around by getting an advertising firm to put in a story about a pig being afraid of mud to get attention. However, this also fits into the whole "PC gone mad" narrative by the tabloids in Britain, which often vomit forth a vile inversion of reality where hardworking, white, British heterosexual males who do not have any form of disability (preferably Christian and right wing) are now the victims in society, where Marxist councillors have made black people, homosexuals and feminists uber-powerful and are arming them to the teeth with advanced weaponry and transforming robotic warriors so as to fight the scourge of white straight men.