Monday, February 09, 2009

Question of the Day

Scenario 1: A private high school interviews a number of applicants for an open teaching position. The most qualified applicant is a 24/7 crossdresser -- in fact, he attends the interview dressed as a woman. The school decides that the leading applicant's crossdressing would be distracting to the students, and decides not to hire him on that basis.

Scenario 2: A for-profit corporation interviews a number of applicants for an open accounting position. The most qualified applicant is a 24/7 crossdresser -- in fact, he attends the interview dressed as a woman. The school decides that the leading applicant's crossdressing would be distracting from workplace productivity, and decides not to hire him on that basis.

In each scenario, has the employer acted ethically?

14 comments:

Heather said...

In both cases, no, the employer has not acted ethically. If the candidate is otherwise the best qualified, then she should get the job; there is no reason to think she is unable to perform her duties either as a teacher or as an accountant. If she is indeed living as a woman all of the time, then she would probably call herself, not 'a crossdresser,' but 'transgendered,' and she'd probably use the pronoun 'she,' not 'he.'

There are some transgendered teachers out there, and the schools that employ them have found that the kids do just fine with it, for the most part, when the concept of 'transgender' is explained to them.

Larry B said...

First of all, the ethical problem here is ill defined from your descriptions.

The issue of the cross dressing is a non-ethical consideration as it relates to the happiness of both the candidate under consideration and the hapiness and comfort of other employees. These issues have nothing to do with an ethical decision.

In the absence of any particular ethical guidelines regarding the hiring of a candidates, I don't think that there are any ethical problems with either choice (hiring or not hiring) the candidate.

If on the other hand, for example, there is a dress code that all must adhere to and cross dressing is specifically adressed by that code, then it is ethically satisfactory to refuse to hire if the code would be violated.

Absent further definition of the problem, a utilitarian argument could be made that by not hiring the cross dresser, you are doing the greatest good for the greatest amount of people by not creating tension for fellow employees and students who would be made uncomfortable by the cross dresser as opposed to making the cross dresser happy by hiring them.

If you use reciprocity (ie the golden rule), it is difficult to apply in this situation unless you yourself are inclined to be a cross dresser, which is most likely not the case.

bob said...

Absolutely,a schools job is to educate and a businesses job is to make money making a decision that could negatively impact either situation would be unethical.

In my experience it has never taken that much to distract a student or an employee from their work.

John said...

Bob, let's change a few variables. Let's say that the applicant is not a crossdresser, but a black man. And that the students or employees are all white and generally hostile toward blacks. Would it still be ethical to decide against hiring the applicant because his race would be a distraction to the work?

John said...

LarryB wrote:

Absent further definition of the problem, a utilitarian argument could be made that by not hiring the cross dresser, you are doing the greatest good for the greatest amount of people by not creating tension for fellow employees and students who would be made uncomfortable by the cross dresser as opposed to making the cross dresser happy by hiring them.

I've never been content with utilitarian ethics because it has no expression of protection for the rights of minorities. I prefer a society in which the majority faces limits in what it can do to a minority for the sake of its own good.

John said...

Heather wrote:

There are some transgendered teachers out there, and the schools that employ them have found that the kids do just fine with it, for the most part, when the concept of 'transgender' is explained to them.

Really? I haven't heard of cases in schools. The kids must be a whole lot more mature than the ones I went to school with.

Jeff the Baptist said...

"Let's say that the applicant is not a crossdresser, but a black man. And that the students or employees are all white and generally hostile toward blacks. Would it still be ethical to decide against hiring the applicant because his race would be a distraction to the work?"

Different case entirely. Cross dressers may not meet the requirements as a protected class according to equal opportunity legislation, but race certainly does.

John said...

Jeff-

Legally, yes, but morally?

Or are morality and legality synonomous? That is, does the legal prohibition of a thing make it immoral, and the absence thereof leaves it moral?

Tom Jackson said...

I think there is a continuum of ethicality here.

"I won't hire black employees": clearly unethical.

"I'll hire black employees, but not for the sales department": still clearly unethical.

"I'll hire black sales people, but not for the Atlanta area."

"I'll hire black sales people for all regions, but Smith and Co. in Atlanta are vicious bigots, and if I send a black sales person there, I'll lose that account."

as above, plus "...and if I lose Smith, I'll have to shut down, and everyone's out of work."

Where's the line?

bob said...

John, Being black or a crossdresser are two different things. The black person has no choice they are always black a crossdresser makes a a decision to dress the way they do. To make decisions based on what someone does is legitimate where deciding based on who someone is would be wrong.

bob said...

John, Being black or a crossdresser are two different things. The black person has no choice they are always black a crossdresser makes a a decision to dress the way they do. To make decisions based on what someone does is legitimate where deciding based on who someone is would be wrong.

John said...

Bob-

That's basically the approach that I would take.

I would think that unless a business had, by necessity, a set of strongly held ideological assumptions, that it would be wrong to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. And a person may have any sexual orientation, but should not engage in sexual activity at work. So just as the heterosexual should not have heterosexual sex at work, nor the homosexual have homosexual sex at work, neither should the crossdresser engage in their sexual expressions at work.

It may seem like an obscure scenario, but I know a hiring manager who had to deal with this problem.

Bro. Dave said...

To add to Tom Jackson's continuum, it would not be ethical to hire a black man and send him into an area known hostile to black men where he might be physically threatened or injured, or harrassed.
The same concern might apply for the crossdresser in the original question. It would not be ethical to intentionally put a crossdresser into a situation where s/he might be daily ridiculed or harrassed... such as a school classroom... unless the employer could guarantee proteciton.

John Wilks said...

In both cases, I think the decision is ethical only if the applicant insists on cross-dressing at work. An employer has every right to set wardrobe standards in the workplace.

If the applicant agrees to dress gender-appropriate at work, but wishes to cross-dress on their free time, then the for-profit company has no reason not to hire them. In that case, what the employee does on their free time is their business, so long as it doesn't involve negative news-making issues such as criminal activity.

A private school, on the other hand, might ethically not hire a cross-dresser depending on the type of private school. For example, a religious school which hires on the basis of world view and theology could have a legit concern.