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Graeme Axford & CYF New Zealand

Human Rights Errors that lead to an unEqual Employment Opportunity and Discrimination.

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Toward an Equal Employment Opportunity for All.

In the first part of this document Graeme and I have tried to clearly show the error in basing Equality and non-discriminatory practices on the basis of the number of persons employed by an organization, and the fallacy of the current SSC guidelines.

In this second part I, Graeme's web master want to return to the beginning re-state the reasons why an employer must be aware of any disability that a potential employee might have from my personal perspective. I will follow this with when and how this disability information can be more favourably collected without discrimination and how we might in fact totally remove the initial potential for discrimination at application.

Does an employer need to know disability information?

Yes they do.
Especially so, if the disability may impact upon the potential employees duties or their ability to do the work required of them, otherwise we may argue that the employer does not really need to know at all.

But, any disability may disrupt an employees ability to work from time to time in a variety of circumstances.

For Example:
A person with a Chronic Obstructive Breathing Disorder may be able in theory to work in any area or industry. However employment as a painter, gymnastics teacher or physical education instructor, may not be suitable to that person if their disability is like mine. Chronic, controllable but influenced by their surroundings and physical exertion. And lets face it working for a panel beater in a spray booth would be potentially dangerous to any person with a Chronic breathing disorder.

Does this mean that a person with a Chronic Breathing Disorder cannot successfully carry out these duties?

No it does not.
Some, indeed many people with various Breathing Disorders do work in these areas. In fact a number of New Zealand's top sports men and women suffer from asthma, as do many others in a variety of trades and professions. However the question is not about the persons disability, but rather the persons ability to carry out the duties required of them time and time again, over a number of days, weeks, months even years without that potential for disability to continue, becoming an issue.

Therefore in the examples mentioned above, the fumes of paint, thinners and other chemicals or the physical exertion involved in physical education could cause the person with a Breathing Disorder more breathing difficulty and lessen their ability to successfully carry out the tasks involved. While the later instance of working in a spray booth, would I suggest, cause difficulty to many people with any breathing disorder.

Thus, while employment in the areas mentioned is not excluded to those with a Chronic Obstructive Breathing Disorder, employers would be taking a risk in employing that person for those tasks, while the potential employee is in this putting themselves and their potential employer at risk in attempting to carry out these tasks without the employers knowledge.

Therefore the employer should be aware of any disability that any potential employee may have.

When should disability information be gathered?

The question of ability, or disability that may affect the employee and their potential to work successfully must be asked at the time of application, or employment interview. Either way the question should be raised before employment is offered, or appointment is made.

Surely the information must be gathered prior to appointment.

Otherwise the issues that may surround a persons ability cannot be discussed honestly, clearly and openly. Perhaps more importantly if a persons disability is not raised during the employment process, how and when can the potential employee be given opportunity to fairly and justly respond to any concerns that a potential employer or their agent may have? To leave this discussion until the time of appointment is also against the employers best interest.

To not cover this at the time of interview seems to me illogical, and potentially harmful to all parties concerned. To wait until the process is complete and then say, "Oh but we did not know you had a Chronic Breathing Disorder, so sorry we cannot appoint you to the job after all, but thanks anyway." Is to me errant on a number of levels, not the least of which is in raising false hopes and expectations for the potential employee, and a total waste of the employers resources, time and costs involved.

Which leads us to the real issues and the real questions:

How should disability information be collected?

It is my personal belief that the question of ability or disability should be raised verbally at the time of interview and never before this point. You see while I live in a world where most folk are honest, the majority are not truly ethical and honourable.

In the past potential employers have used the information freely given on application to exclude myself and others from the interview process. On at least four occasions since 1999 I know that I have been unsuccessful in the employment process because of my Breathing Disorder, and on at least two occasions I know that I was excluded from final appointment because of my age.

Admittedly these are in the minority but the fact that such has happened, does happen and will continue to happen, suggests that the simple solution is not to ask the question at the time of application. For not doing so totally removes one potential opportunity for discrimination. Whether that potential for discrimination is on the part of the employer or the employers agent the potential is removed.

A Classic Example

What I believe to be a good example of this type can be seen in the interview process that Graeme went through with Child Youth and Family Services a number of years back, and the comment made by the interview panel when Graeme's dyslexia was raised.

"Paula explained that it was unhelpful for the panel not knowing that he had a disability at the time of the interview and questioned why it had not been identified on the CYF Application Form. It made it very difficult for the panel to progress with the interview."

I may be more than a little ingenuous in this and if so I apologise. However, it seems to me that this statement highlights an instance of the "desire to discriminate" being undone.

That Graeme suffers from dyslexia is not an issue in this matter of the interview process. Frankly if it is now claimed that his disability was / is an issue, then I for one smell an even bigger mess on the horizon. Graeme's disability cannot have been an issue as stated when he was scored as highly as he was on the first interview.

Secondly in this matter. He has successfully for a number of years prior to application and since managed to carry on working in the "advocacy" field without his dyslexia being a hindrance or issue.

What I believe gives the "discriminatory attitude" away in this, is the final statement, "It made it very difficult for the panel to progress with the interview." That statement alone tells me that had the person(s) responsible for short-listing potential candidates, read the information they had previously received from Graeme, or read clearly and known of his dyslexia prior to the short-listing for interview, Graeme would never have been on that list.

Why do I say this;

The score that Graeme received from the first interview panel was so close to the other top scoring candidates as to make the decision even more difficult for the panel. I have great difficulty in accepting that a person with a disability or otherwise who caused such "difficulty for the panel" could have scored as highly. Especially so in light of the second interview results, which scored Graeme so lowly in comparison. Which opens another can of worms, that all point toward something very disconcerting and perhaps discriminatory.

How could any person not have known of Graeme's disability prior to interview? The evidence is and was clearly there in the documentation that Graeme provided prior to the interview.

If we are following the SSC guidelines then the interview panel should not have known of Graeme's disability prior to the interview and the matter being raised verbally. Or are the SSC guidelines simply documentation and suggestions to be ignored?

The question of disability was never asked on the CYF application form. Unless of course it was written in white ink on white paper. Or is that invisible ink on invisible paper? In either case no one could answer a question that was not there to answer.

As I said, all this smells of something, and I am sorry if this is offensive to the Greymouth staff or other personal at CYF, but that smell is not the sewer backing up. That said, I do not doubt for one moment that this will be dismissed by some as the subjective delusional opinion of one intellectually dishonest individual, and those practices that seem to be discriminatory and are I suggest at least errant, may be allowed to continue.

On the Positive side.

This did give Graeme the opportunity to explain to the "seemingly discriminatory" how he is able to use software and other technology in his work environment to overcome the issues that dyslexia does raise for him in life. Which technology I repeat has allowed him to continue in his advocacy role for a number of years since this period of what seems to be an attempt at discrimination because of a disability.

So then while I personally maintain that disability information must be revealed to any potential employer or their agent, doing so prior to the interview process only allows for greater potentially discriminatory practices. Thus I maintain my stand; the question should only be raised verbally during the time of interview, at which point any relevant notes should be made and forms completed.

What should be done with this information now collected and known?

All disability information collected in this manner should then be retained for a period of 6 months to 18 months maximum for "Equal Employment Opportunity Analysis Purposes."

All candidates should be made aware that the information given will be retained for such purposes and that under no circumstances will names and addresses or other personally identifiable data be included or retained.

Only the date, department or organisation, position applied for and disability data is needed for analysis to show any "potential discriminatory process or practice." Personal information that might identify any candidate whether successful or unsuccessful is not required for this purpose.

The Benefit of this process.

This information can then be analyised periodically by department, agency, or collectively for the State Services sector and any potentially discriminatory process, practice or person will then become clearly evident.

Contrast with The present process.

The present process and collection of disability data on appointment can not and will never show the truly discriminatory individuals or process's within Government departments and agencies. Nor can this appointment data show or prove "non-discriminatory process's or practices" in the Employment Process.

As Graeme and I pointed out on his web site, and stated earlier;

… in our opinion it is clear that the retained "appointment data" is for no purpose other than to give a misleading and false impression to Government, to Self and the Public at large, that the State Sector is not discriminatory in it's employment process and practices …

… For the data used by SSC and other agencies to make this claim ignores every unsuccessful applicant. Such is unethical, unprofessional and as such breaches the SSC Code of Conduct guidelines on many levels …

… After all Opportunity does not equate to Appointment. The Opportunity given can only offer a fair, just and "Equal Opportunity" if there are "no discriminatory process's or practices." …

… Either there is "Equal Employment Opportunity" or there is not, and based upon the current practices within Sate Services and those departments, agencies and organisations guided by the SSC guidelines, it does seem that the guidelines and current practices do not lead to any clearly verifiable "Equal Employment Opportunity" for many applicants, and all disabled / impaired applicants."
(source: )

All that the data collected on appointment can show is the number of disabled persons employed within State Services and the various departments and organisations. This does not prove nor show the potential discriminatory process's or practices.

This data can not and does not prove that managers, human resource personal or others are not acting in potentially discriminatory ways, or as appears to myself and others have been and possibly are still being discriminatory in their practices.

Again please understand clearly.
I am not saying that all people do act in this way, for it is clear that all do not.

However it also seems clear to myself from the evidence available on Graeme's web site and the continued stone wall attitude of Government agencies within New Zealand that such discriminatory practices are known to occur occassionally. The real problem it appears is that none with the power and authority are willing to admit such nor to their dishonour and discredit do any damn thing about it.

Well excuse me for breathing, which I do with difficulty many days, but it is well past the time to correct the errors in collection of data and to address the issue of giving a True Equal Opportunity to all persons instead of hiding behind the myth of appointment data, and the greater myth of the present so called Equal Employment Opportunity Process.

There is a better way forward, that will help in identifying problem areas. and discriminatory process's and those who are discriminatory in their practices.


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