Ronald N. Levy (May 10, 2013): One may wonder whether an association of human resources execs or small business owners will ever have the nerve to say that just as enouraging women to "lean in" is reasonable, so is encouraging government to "butt out" of an employer's decision on whom to hire and how much to pay.
Some discrimination in hiring seems clearly justified. We can discriminate for office jobs in favor of people who can read and write, for physically strong people for police and firefighting jobs,
for the more intelligent for many jobs, for the military age range for
work as a soldier, and for candidates with requisite licenses for law and medicine.
But it's unlawful to discriminate against a candidate who is 62 years old and plans to retire at 65, or who is recently married and says she plans begin a family as soon as possible. But it's hard for an
employer to spend thousands training a new employee who is likely to retire soon. It's especially hard to hold a job open for two months if a mother-to-be says she may or may not come back to work. Who'll do the job in the meantime?
If an employee of either gender is doing a lousy job and senses the ax is coming--and accuses the supervisor of sexual harrassment, don't dare fire that employee, your lawyer may advise, because it could seem "like retaliation." Go try to prove what you didn't say or that an employee was doing poor work.
I don''t know the answer. I certainly favor fairness to women but also to employers. Will the day come when our grandchildren can be sued if a lawyer assembles evidence that they only dated people of the same religion and of the opposite sex?
If "leaning in" means trying harder, almost all of us should be for that. But to the extent it means that an employer can't choose or promote those candidates who seem like they'll be the most profitable, I can't say I lean in that direction.