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The Ultimate Catch-22


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) threatens to sue companies that refuse to hire criminals.[1]  Reportedly they have already opened hundreds of investigations in search of potential justification for lawsuits.

The book “Catch-22” is a satirical fictional novel by Joseph Heller about the adventures of Army Air Force Captain John Yossarian and his cohorts during World War II.  The individuals routinely encounter self-contradictory and illogical regulations and orders from superiors that cannot possibly be fulfilled; the book recounts their hilarious “solutions.”   Consequently the term “catch-22” has come to stand for bureaucratic absurdity and bungling in the form of illogical, conflicting,  and immoral government laws and regulations that cannot possibly be satisfied without violating a regulation or breaking a law.

We have seen a proliferation of absurd regulations of late, but the latest proposal by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) appears to be the ultimate catch-22.

Specifically, the EEOC is threatening to sue companies that refuse to hire convicted criminals due to background check results indicating criminal history.[2]    But if a firm proceeds to hire the criminal under pressure from the EEOC and the criminal subsequently commits a repeat offense on the job, then the company is still liable for a lawsuit.  Catch-22.

Just think of the possibilities:

  • A bank may have to hire a convicted embezzler to avoid a lawsuit by the EEOC, but when the embezzler subsequently steals customers’ money, the bank will face a lawsuit for its actions from the customers and perhaps even from other government agencies.  Catch-22.
  • A day-care is forbidden to conduct a background check of applicants or face a lawsuit from the EEOC; consequently it unknowingly hires a convicted pedophile.  Perhaps the day-care then becomes liable for a lawsuit for not complying with local pedophile laws requiring background checks.  Or when that pedophile molests one of the children at the day-care, the organization faces huge lawsuits from the parents.  Or the day-care could have simply continued to conduct background checks and get sued by the EEOC.  Catch-22.
  • The possibilities are endless…

Here are some links:

NY Times
EEOC statement

All is not as it looks!

[1] The EEOC’s “logic” is that because convicted criminals are disproportionately black, refusal to hire criminals proves the existence of a racial bias against blacks.

[2] To add insult to injury, the EEOC is adopting the position that any firm refusing to hire a felon must substantiate their decision to do so:  In other words, the firm is deemed guilty unless proven innocent – contrary to our long established tradition of innocence until proven otherwise!

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