Morality and the Employment Act

First Published: 2000-10-09

Morality and the Employment Act

Most of the discussion surrounding the proposed Employment Act concerns the helpless, overworked, underpaid employee, portraying the employer as tyrannical, and stingy and that the relationship is that of master/slave rather than two free individuals making choices in the labour market. It is in this context that the legislation is deemed “fair”.

Some examples show that the fulfilment of the ideals intended by the legislation are neither fair nor practical, and that the state is trying to legislate moral behaviour.

  • Clause 7a states in part that no employer shall discriminate against a prospective employee by refusing to offer employment solely because of his or her race, creed, sex, marital status, political opinion or age…

Assume for a moment that you have three applicants for a position and you choose the one based on your years of experience that you think will be best suited for your company and the job. Unfortunately the two prospective employees who were turned down for the job, think that you turned them down because they are white (Caucasian). The present bill allows them to take you to the Tribunal and you would have to defend yourself on the grounds that they “thought” you turned them down because they were white.

Conversely, the prospective employee you felt was best suited for the job turns your offer down because you are black. Should you have a corresponding “right” to pursue this employee through the Tribunal?

This certainly is not “fair” if we are legislating morality as appears to be the case.

  • Clauses 52 through 62 prohibit a business owner from employing his or her own child in their business if the child is less than fourteen years of age.

Assume for a moment you own 21st Century Acme Products and you have a son that you would like to give Summer employment so he can start to learn the life skills he will require to carry the business on.

Unfortunately if your son is thirteen years of age, you simply cannot hire him. And if you do, you face summary conviction.

This certainly is not “fair” if we are legislating morality as appears to be the case.

  • Clauses 70 through 74 prevent employers from requiring their staff or prospective employees to take lie detector tests, furnish finger prints or take any other type of test to further establish their identity, whether or not they are telling the truth about an incident or simply establishing their truthfulness.

Companies all over the world test their potential employees for truthfulness. In addition, companies are allowed to test their employees should theft of their assets take place.

How can we sanction allowing theft of one person-s property by another?

This certainly is not “fair” if we are legislating morality as appears to be the case.

Finally: “Since the employment relationship is essentially moral in nature, employment legislation that diminishes freedom and responsibility of individuals to make decisions regarding their own welfare is morally questionable.”1

1Essay, The Ethics of Employment, by James Chesher.

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