Discrimination in the workplace?

This topic was created by Hairy Airey .

Unhappy

Discrimination in the workplace?

The Reg did a recent article on "losing your religion" on your CV. It's bad enough that you can be disciplined for wearing a cross in the workplace (and that case has cost BA a lot of money so far). Why be ashamed of your beliefs?

My own view is that you should be upfront about these things. I have put at the top of my CV that I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome on the 1st April 2010 (in the afternoon, fortunately...). I've even been advised by recruitment agencies to take it off. I am convinced that I have been turned down for work because of it, but the fact is that if they don't understand what Asperger's Syndrome is they won't understand what benefits you would bring to the business. If they don't want me because I have a condition that affects the way I relate to staff, I can go and work elsewhere.

As for beliefs, if they have a bearing on how you do your work of course they should be on your CV.

I was recently dismissed from one company (those who were at the Register Live 2011 know who I mean) on the basis that I "would not fit in". They stuck by this even when they knew I had Asperger's Syndrome. I have a petition about this at johnairey.epetitions.net.

Yes, there are some people who view the discrimination regulations as an easy way to get money, however in my experience the tribunals are very difficult to persuade. They would rather believe that you are unemployable (for example, turning up to work when supposedly weren't meant to) than you have been discriminated against. A recent letter to the Guardian from a Employment Law solicitor pointed out that unreasonable claimants are the exception.

Fortunately I work for an understanding employer now (although it's further from home I'm now losing £2,200 per year). One of their HR staff described me as weird recently, which is spot on!

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Pint

Re: Discrimination in the workplace?

Recently? That was the end of November, 2009 ... my reply might not be the most polite, but at least I'm honest.

Asperger's Syndrome, on the other hand, ain't a religion. It's reality. And AS folks seem to be amongst the best when it comes to computer & network literacy. Most with the syndrome grok the trifecta: hardware, OSes, and software.

If I caught your resume with "AS" flagged, I'd haul you in for an interview if you had anything resembling experience ... I've placed AS folks in senior tech positions for Fortune 500s.

Not naming names, but my gut feeling is that most of the technological innovators of the last 500 years were and/or are AS.

Come to think of it ... knapping flint was probably invented by someone with AS ;-)

Hang in there ... and use the AS on your c.v. with care. Human Resource bods are, for the most part, completely fucking useless. Only mention AS when you know the hiring manager is going to review your paperwork, or when you visit in person. IMO, of course.

Before you ask, no, I'm not AS. But I've known a lot of y'all over the years, and I grok where you are coming from. This round's on me, Brother.

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Re: Discrimination in the workplace?

Whenever I interviewed someone in the past I always went by the evidence of their achievements/abilities and gave them plus points for achieving from a lower academic start. I never paid much attention to the non-technical parts and would have ignored religion as being irrelevent. I say 'would have', because I never actually saw a CV with religious beliefs mentioned - I think in the UK religious afilitation isn't a big deal for most people.

As for Asperger's Syndrome, I'm inclined to agree with jake. I've noticed over the years that the best technical brains do tend to be slightly off the norm for one reason or the other, so filtering on any form of 'mental purity' would just ensure that you don't get the best.

I think that despite laws to the contrary, prejudice may be alive and well in UK interviewing. I base this on the observation that there are plenty of people with negative views on race, religion, mental state and sex, and this applies at all business levels and seems unrelated to intelligence. The standard mechanism of filtering on objective criteria without even seeing the candidates does tend to allow for such prejudices to be safely exercised.

For my part, I think religious affilitation (and political affiliation, for that matter) are private matters and I would never put them on a CV for that reason alone.

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Happy

Re: Discrimination in the workplace?

Thanks for your replies guys, almost the same thing was said to me by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. There are some employers that will only employ those with AS. I worked for RNIB for over ten years and they knew that I had problems with relating to people. (it still didn't stop them dismissing me for what was the breakdown in relationship with another colleague when they could and should have given a final written warning in the circumstances. The guy who sacked me has admitted he was forced to do it.)

Unfortunately though there seems to be a perception that almost any question at interview could land you in trouble, and yes there are a few people out there who will bring a claim for even the smallest issue. Some of them have been barred from bringing claims unless they can show they have a valid claim.

I don't think beliefs are a private matter because what you believe has an impact on how you carry out your work. If you have strongly held beliefs then you shouldn't have to keep them to yourself at all. In fact if any held beliefs that were discriminatory they would keep them quiet.

One of the problems with the whole issue of discrimination is that it is rarely overt (although I myself have been assaulted in the workplace - see http://www.prolifevote.org.uk/images/cri.mov). So if you can give a good reason why you didn't pick someone then you will escape trouble. Of course this does mean if you are able to lie with a straight face (as I've seen many people do at tribunal) you'll also get away with it.

I think the saddest thing is that we need this legislation in the workplace. I had an Employment Solicitor say to me once "now you have your diagnosis no-one wouldn't dare not employ you". I wouldn't want it to be like that, I had one employer last year turn me down for the lack of specific experience and I was fine with that. Two other employers however claimed lack of experience but never said what it was. One of them I did the job for three months and never failed to do what I was asked. (I have never ever lost a job on capability). Was it worth pursuing to tribunal? Probably not, although I will drop them leaflets on AS.

I am not backing down having been sacked explicitly for the reason that I "would not fit in". This is unacceptable to a supposedly diverse employer. If you can sign my petition at johnairey.epetitions.org that would be appreciated.

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Re: Discrimination in the workplace?

Correction, johnairey.epetitions.net.

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Re: Discrimination in the workplace?

When I say beliefs are a private matter I mean that, from my own point of view they are facts about myself that I consider to be private unless I choose to reveal them. Except in very specific circumstances (eg if a job requires a particular perspective) I don't see how they can be relevent at interview.

The one disagreement I have with what you say is "...what you believe has an impact on how you carry out your work...". I suppose you could argue that there is always at least a grain of truth to that assertion, but it doesn't influence my work and I've never noticed it influencing any colleagues' work.

I don't think it is necessary for an employer to know someone's beliefs. If they want to delve into a candidate then that's what the interview is for. I would certainly resist any attempt to poke much further than 'Education, Experience, Skills and hobbies'.

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Re: Discrimination in the workplace?

I'd be less inclined to hire someone who had written Asperger's Syndrome at the top of the CV, mainly because I don't 100% believe in it and in so far as I do, I regard a diagnosis of it as more of an excuse than anything else.It's a very mild form as autism as far as we know. Too mild to treat someone much differently because of. I interview based on who has the best formal qualifications and the best experience / demonstrable ability, with the latter usually taking precedence. If someone shows up to the interview and they're not very socially aware, then it can be a factor depending on what role I'm hiring for (i.e. sales), but I'm hiring on ability and sociability is only one factor in that - and sometimes it can even be a negative one. If someone gives the impression they're super-highly strung and difficult to work with, that's a mark against them. If they show up in trainers, combats and a Britney Spears UK Tour T-shirt rather than a suit and tie, I'm unlikely to care (might even count in their favour). Gay, white, black, into model trains - couldn't give a damn. It's their business. So someone who says "Hi, I'm Gary and I have Aspergers" (or the CV equivalent in this case), isn't necessarily off my list, but it's a mark against them. Not because I (depending on the role) rule off the socially awkward, but the immediate in-your-face introduction indicates to me that either this person defines themself by it (e.g. "Oh, I have aspergers - I'm supposed to not try to understand how other people feel") or it's a warning.

If I had a quid for every time someone who was a bit odd either labelled themselves, or were labelled by someone else as Asperger's Syndrome, when they have no clinical training, I'd be a very rich person. For those (far fewer) who have an actual clinical diagnosis... Well it wont disqualify you from being hired by me, but defining yourself by it doesn't help.

Asperger's Syndrome is a clinical label for something we've all known and been familiar with for a long time: people who don't quite get the non-verbal social interaction, lack empathy a bit and are sometimes a bit physically inept. It's not really a disability, imo. It's just a personality type. I can live with and hire that personality type. I don't like it being enshrined as a label on someone. Most people grow out of being that type of person to a large extent over time. Adopting the label as a descriptor of who you are probably retards that process, imo. Making it the first impression on someone is a negative. Tell me that you're brilliant with C++ and I wont care that much if you're a bit awkward. Tell me that you're an insensitive arsehole to people and then that's the first information that goes into my head, not: "okay, great, how's your coding?"

And in my fifteen years working in technical fields, I've met a few people who fit the bright, socially inept stereotype. But I've also met plenty of people who are not very bright and socially awkward. It's called a confirmation bias. If you're working in a technical field and someone is there *despite* being a problem in other areas, then the reason is probably that they are better than average somewhere else. Some of these personality types may develop obsessive interests in, say computer programming, which is beneficial. But you can hang out at a train station and see train spotters who are just the same but went along a less employable path. I've met more very bright socially adept people than I have very bright socially maladjusted.

My serious advice to the OP? Drop it from your CV. Not because it's something you need to be ashamed of, but because it's the quality you should be defining yourself by. A CV, a resumé, covering letter, whatever - I don't have a lot of time. I expect you to put forward why I should hire you. That's your programming skills, or your sales experience, or whatever. You shouldn't be leading with your flaws or weak areas. Your application is your one and only chance to tell people why they *should* hire you. Don't waste it on irrelevant things like you're a bit awkward at reading people.

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Re: Discrimination in the workplace?

As a side note, wearing a suit to a technical interview is a negative, at least when I'm doing the interviewing. See my post from last July ...

I know, I know, "society says" & all that. My answer to that is that the world is a very large place, and if we all walked in lock-step it'd be an extremely boring place.

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Re: Discrimination in the workplace?

Whilst I can't exactly argue that stating that you have AS in you're CV possibly isn't the best thing to do unless you are absolutely sure - I do have to state as a diagnosed individual that 'h4rm0ny' should research the condition more thoroughly before making misjudged and misinformed statements about it.

It's exactly this sort of prejudice and ignorance that makes life so difficult for us.

It's not about 'personality' - although the effects of AS can be read as such and certainly influence it - It's a physical thing hardwired into the brain itself. I have severe photo/hearing and touch sensitivity, come from a family with a history of autism and I also have real social difficulties that by bluffing it on an intellectual level I hope I mostly get away with it - until i'm tired or distracted and the facade drops. Reading body language, facial expressions, innuendo, hints and reading-between-the-lines is exceptionally hard to do when your not hardwired for it. ALL of this is scientifically provable and accepted by the vast majority of scientists. The major difference for myself and many others with AS as compared to individuals with the more recognisable forms of autism, is that we have been blessed with above average intelligence.

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Re: Discrimination in the workplace?

It was my piece, so if I may respond to the comments...

The BA/Cross thing in my view isn't religious bias, just crap management, if you'd ever met BA management you would realise how crap they are

This is control freak management, you only got to hear about this becuase Christian groups put great effort in trying to portray themselves as victims of discrimination, you don't read about BA staff getting hassle for the wrong lipstick, hair length or shoes, just as stupid to hassle people about.

That's the first point, managers vary in quality and bias in all it's forms is a symptom not a cause, and my articles are an attempt to help navigate round them. The woman with the cross was also at fault, the Christian God is beyond our time and space, nowhere in the Bible does it say that wearing a cross is desirable and many highly committed Christians don't wear them, often because they know that God cares about what is in our hearts, not dangling round our necks. Madonna wears a cross, relatively few Christians see her as an exemplar of their faith.

>"As for beliefs, if they have a bearing on how you do your work of course they should be on your CV."

I part company with you there... Saying one behaves better because you're a Christian/Moslem/vegan/whatever. is not only unsupported by what we observe from religious groups it drags you into the question of what is "better", and raises the fear of someone who will preach and generally be a pain.

Even if someone was of *exactly* the same ethical, religious and philosophical view as myself if I saw "As a vaguely libertarian technophile heterosexual who has read all the works of Douglas Adams, I believe I have greater integrity", I'd bin the CV without reading anything else.

As for disability, I believe your strategy is bang on the money, when I've tried to help people with issues a key element is drawing a line under it, so a hiring manager can make an informed decision that he feels comfortable with and can justify to his bosses.

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Anonymous Coward

Logistics of beliefs do play a role,....

we had a devout muslim here who used to fast during Ramadan, which means he was tired, ratty and fatigued for one month of the year (and suffering from nicotine withdrawal as a smoker too).

I don't begrudge him his beliefs but they don't sit well with a corporate culture and an IT job. Where does the line get drawn between sensitivity and commercial concerns?

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Childcatcher

Regards the petition, you have no chance of being reinstated, and the petition is a waste of time. Sorry but I have AS and won't be filling it in. Your best chance is to begin by writing a formal appeal to the company. The next to send a questionnaire using the procedure under the Equality Act (Google it), and fill in your ET1 form for an Employment Tribunal ASAP as you only have 3 months from the time the dismissal occurred.

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Happy

Cheers anewman

I love your optimism (note - I'm being sarcastic). It's only my optimism that keeps me going, because otherwise I'd kill myself. Given that the employer has already offered me my job back for a joke, I think it's only fair that I have the last laugh.

This was blatant discrimination, it's been to tribunal and they just ignored it. Parliament can pass as many laws as it likes but it's down to only a few Judges to enforce it (or not as the case may be). Who recalls the Judge who commended a burglar for his "bravery"?

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Anonymous Coward

Speaking as someone who lives with this, I find it helpful to treat human interaction as another tech skill to be learned. We can't understand personal interaction instinctively the way Persons of Median Mentality do, but it can most certainly be learned. It's slow at first, but I've gotten pretty good with practice, enough that the occasional faux pas gets overlooked.

If you want it in book form, try something by Dr Paul Ekman, or if you're the hacker type, Unmasking the Social Engineer by Chris Hadnagy.

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