The Fair Employment Vigil
ON a single news day in a single city, three stories reported prominently on cases of alleged discrimination in employment.
Brooks Brothers in Boston agreed to recruit minorities to settle a racial discrimination complaint after the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination staged a sting operation in which a black applicant and a white applicant with comparable qualifications sought employment and only the white applicant was told about a job opening.
In a second case, a Boston restaurant, Amsterdam's, closed after a year of picketing by the Community Justice Committee, alleging "racism, sexism, ageism" in employment - charges the owners of the nonunion restaurant had dismissed as union politics.
A third story explained a Supreme Court ruling in the case of a Massachusetts man with nine-plus years of service, fired at the age of 62 before he could qualify for a pension. The Court ruled that pension rights must not be confused with age discrimination, since comparatively young workers might lose vesting if laid off short of 10 years.
To be scrupulous about the rights of employees can require the patient wisdom of Solomon. Is an employee crying "-ism" when he or she loses a job for poor performance? Where do the rights of employers enter in? What if picketing with placards charging discrimination leads to a business losing its good name and closing, costing everybody's job?
Despite the difficulties of exacting justice, the creation of a level playing field for all workers remains a noble achievement. Not long ago, employers were not answerable in the least, however arbitrary their hiring and firing practices.
Such a comparison supplies a measure by which current fair employment practices can be appreciated. On more than just Labor Day, it ought to be celebrated that the right of all workers to share equal access to a job, and equal protection against whimsical dismissal, is a treasured guarantee of the American constitutional system.