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Saturday, January 17, 2009

AIDs and Recruitment

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A sting camera operation by a TV channel in India exposed some companies’ unwillingness to hire people diagnosed with AIDS for full-time employment. A journalist sought, and was offered, job in BPO and Banking sector, until she revealed the secret. This is clearly issue of bias with legal, economical and moral implications. Let’s examine candidate’s and company’s point of view.

A candidate suffering HIV has right to seek any opportunity on fair ground under laws of the land. Not only will it be immoral to deny such opportunity, but it will also open Pandora’s box in terms of what can or cannot be denied (disabled, nearsighted, asthmatic, etc.). Clearly, setting these boundaries will verge on arbitrariness and can become ground for unfair action. A company hiring an AIDS employee knowingly incurs additional costs. We are assuming that narrow mindedness of colleagues is not an issue, or if it is, company is willing to fight it. Even then, an HIV positive employee potentially brings with himself added healthcare expenses (if there is company sponsored medical plan) and reduced performance due to frail health and more off days due to medical treatment.

Can company account for these factors by reduced salary or not sponsoring medical treatment? That would be considered unfair to employee. But looking from unemotional angle, it is possible that a candidate might just seek job to provide for cost-effective medical needs. From where I see it, I believe that outright refusal is immoral and inhuman, even if company incurs slightly more cost on that candidate. After all, such small differences do exist in workplace and are ignored, for when did your eating more in company cafeteria led to a deduction from your salary? However, to be fair to organization too, there can be clear cut rules discussed beforehand which will reduce exploitation of company by employee, and clearly stipulate at what stage of decease will employment terminate. Further, regular application of existing rules will take care of excessive sick days (unpaid) and productivity (performance review and bonus). Candidate should also accept these limitations and not play victimization card if above happens. It may happen, and is likely, that candidate is unwilling to accept above mentioned restriction and will sue company for discrimination, once offered a job. Alas, fear is these might lead to outright refusal to hire which is more defendable in court of law.

Not that this is happening here, there might be just plain discrimination, but attempt to not forgo anything by some often results in others forgoing everything as rules become more stringent and each party tries to covers its back.