In the 1972 made-for-TV movie Between Time and Timbuktu, the protagonist is transported to a world in which no one person is permitted to be superior in any way to any other person – physically or mentally. Individuals who happen to be physically stronger or more agile than others are forced to carry weights on their shoulders – “handicappers” – so they are not able to out-perform their weaker fellow citizens.
Now, a half century after author Kurt Vonnegut’s make-believe but prescient production, the federal government is punishing companies for hiring employees who are stronger and more athletic than others.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has become Uncle Sam’s handicapper enforcement arm.
One case at hand pits the EEOC, currently chaired by Democrat Charlotte Burrows, against a California moving company. The unforgivable legal sin committed by Meathead Movers that has led EEOC to file a lawsuit against it, is to hire movers who are strong and agile – precisely the qualities that would have forced such employees to don the handicappers envisioned by Vonnegut in Between Time and Timbuktu.
The primary difference between the handicappers in the 1972 movie and those now the object of the EEOC’s lawsuit against Meathead Movers, is that in the fictional account, the handicappers are physical weights, while the 2023 handicappers are statutory. The punishment sought by the EEOC against the moving company is, of course, monetary.
The EEOC initially demanded that Meathead Movers pay $15 million to settle the case – an offer the company refused. Notwithstanding the agency’s oh-so-generous subsequent offer of $5 million to withdraw its threatened action against the company, Meathead Movers declined, which precipitated the EEOC’s September lawsuit.
While most discrimination actions by EEOC are initiated via complaint filed by an employee or applicant for employment, in this case the Commission deemed the “discouragement bias” (yes, that is a real term now employed by the EEOC) inherent in the moving company’s ads seeking to hire strong, agile, and energetic individuals, to be so egregiously discriminatory that the company was targeted without any individual alleging discrimination or bias.
At a time long ago and in a land far away (say, the United States a half century ago), it would seem not only lawful but entirely reasonable for a moving company to hire individuals who exhibit the physical and mental traits necessary for the demanding work of lifting heavy loads and transporting them quickly from home or office to truck and back. No longer.
In the eyes of President Biden’s EEOC nannies, Meathead Movers’ ads impermissibly “discourage” older individuals from applying for such jobs. The fact that nothing in the company’s ads or hiring practices indicated a preference for age – only that individuals were strong, agile, and motivated – could not save it from lengthy and costly litigation.
The AARP, which formerly was known as the American Association of Retired Persons but now goes simply by the acronym “AARP,” has applauded the EEOC’s action against Meathead Movers, blasting the company for using inappropriate “stereotypes.”
Sadly, this most recent idiotic move by Uncle Sam’s nanny watchdogs at the EEOC is by no means the only example of the federal government and various state regulatory agencies working to hobble hiring practices in ways that lower or altogether remove reasonable standards for employment.
The U.S. Air Force three years ago lowered the standards for pilots because the previous requirements were deemed to limit the number of female pilots. Not to be outdone, the Army in 2022 reduced its physical fitness standards in order to bring more women and older persons into its ranks.
New York City and other state and local governments have decided that employers cannot turn away applicants because they are obese.
Even firefighting, among the most physically demanding jobs of all, is falling victim to the drive for lowered standards in order to hire a preferred class of persons, in the case of Connecticut, more women firefighters.
Restricting the ability of companies and government agencies to establish meaningful, performance-based hiring and employment standards may delight DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) zealots like the EEOC’s Charlotte Burrows. However, for those who rely on such standards as are now seen as unlawful for companies serving the public, or for government agencies protecting our country from enemies abroad or from disasters here at home, such extreme nanny-ism can be debilitating, even deadly.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.