Thursday, December 23, 2010

Increasing Minority Employment Opportunities

Unemployment among the minority populations continues to be a serious problem. It needs a solution.

Sometimes the best solution to a problem is completely counterintuitive.

The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Act applies only to employers with 50 or more employees. The Ohio Civil Rights Act applies to all employers. Most employment opportunity is with small employers.

I believe that the biggest impediment to small employers hiring minorities is the Ohio Civil Rights Act. Why? Many small employers believe, not unreasonably, that unsatisfactory minority employees will use the threat of going to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to avoid being fired.

What small employer can afford huge legal fees for a defense if the employee does not work out? Free at-will employment creates jobs. It allows employers to experiment with marginal candidates, because they know that if an employee does not work out, the employee may be freely terminated. Employers are not afraid to hire.

But if you throw penalties for wrongful termination into the mix, employers will be much more selective in hiring. Why take a chance on someone with questionable qualifications? If the employer is faced with a claim of discrimination, even if not meritorious, terminating the minority becomes very expensive. In the employer's mind, why take a chance by hiring a minority in the first place?

We have come a long way since 1964. Yes, there is still racial discrimination based upon purely racial attitudes. I believe, however, that most employers, when given the opportunity, would prefer to give minorities a chance to do well. Under the current system, a small employer does not dare give a job to minority who is not fully qualified. There is nothing unlawful about discriminating against an unqualified candidate. Isn't it better to encourage small employers to give marginally qualified minorities a chance to make good?

The solution: Repeal the Ohio Civil Rights Act.

If may not "feel" right. It is certainly counterintuitive ... until you think it through. Increasing penalties or increasing enforcement would have the opposite effect, discouraging employment.

I believe at-will employment regardless of race is better for minority employment. Yes, it would fail to punish racial discrimination in some cases. However, it would result in greater minority employment overall.

Isn't that really better for all of us?

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