Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Is equal opportunity really equal?

Back to my previous points.  There can never be complete equality.  It is a utopian state that is impossible to achieve, as much as we all would like to idealise this world.  People are constantly suing somebody because they feel their rights have been infringed upon.  The case becomes one of those civil rights issues.  There are at least two sides to every issue but people can only see it from one angle.  The latest case is the police officer who is claiming that stress from the TSG has caused her to become infected with a virus that may cripple her for life.

First of all, she has a point in stating that stress led to her illness.  It is quite possible, but I don’t know if she can prove it in court. If so, it is a sad situation and we can only hope it is not as serious as she fears.  Perhaps, if she leaves the force, the stress will be removed and she can recover.

When she first informed her superiors of her pregnancy, she stated that she was told she no longer had a job with the TSG.  She was devastated by that news, yet they must have worked it out because she remained with them.  What did she do during that time?  Did she serve on the front line or did she have to step down or what?  She was already perfectly aware of what her duties were before she was pregnant; she should have taken that into account when she returned from maternity leave.  However, she discovered that circumstances were somehow different. Was it because she did not account for the breastfeeding?  How long was her maternity leave?  Aren’t they allowed quite a bit of time, enough for her to have sufficiently breast fed and pumped milk for her baby? Are there any light duties in the TSG?  If so, is there a pay cut for doing these duties?  Was she willing to have taken a pay cut rather than leave her job?  She talked about being bullied and coming home in tears.  Didn’t she consider leaving her job then?  Not that I would condone bullying, but is it bullying to tell an employee to do her job or leave?

It may sound like I have no sympathy for this woman, but I do.  I feel sorry for the fact that she had to go through with this.  It may be that she was forced to hold on to this job because of the recession, but she was clearly unhappy and should have gotten out before it affected her health.  Perhaps, she should have taken a longer maternity leave.  I don’t know all the particulars of this case, but I can comment on a few things.

I am a mother.  I breastfed my children.  I had to return to work after six weeks.  That’s what we were allowed.  I may not have been a police officer, but I was working in an environment where I could be called for emergencies at any given time.  Yes, it interfered with my breast pumping and I believe that one time it caused me to suffer mastitis.  Did I go complain about it?  No, I accepted that something had to give somewhere.  I accepted that I couldn’t pump as much milk as I wanted.  I learned to enjoy the moments when I could breastfeed.  We had to supplement the babies’ feedings.  I did not put my job first, but I had to stay on top of my work.  I was not in a job where I could ask for lighter duties.  My job was my job.  If I had to run around all day, it was what I had to do.  I couldn’t afford not to work; it would have affected my career. 

This case may be about women’s rights, but it could hurt the feminist movement.  The police will have to think twice about hiring women in such positions.  Not only the police force, but other companies as well.  Employers will have to consider whether a woman who is pregnant or may have to breastfeed can do the job that they advertise.  In addition, they have to ensure that they can provide measures to protect pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as other employees.  If they fear that pregnancy or breastfeeding would interfere with job duties, they need to address these issues with the women beforehand. 

Not every job is suitable for everyone, despite the claims for equal opportunity.  I do not refer just to the skills and education required.  Employers are not allowed to discriminate against age, race, creed, sex and sexual orientation.  (Those I am sure of, but I am not sure about other things, such as political affiliation, although in the US, that was included as well.  I know for sure that political affiliation is not included in the UK because BNP members are excluded from medicine, the police force and the church.  That proves the point that it is not equal opportunity for everyone.)  Not every employer is equal opportunity but most claim they are.  They cannot discriminate against age, but when they interview, they can make guesses as to a person’s age.  Can we say for sure that they did not choose an older person because they feel their maturity is an asset?  Or perhaps, they chose a younger one because they are probably more fit.  It all depends on the job in question.  They cannot discriminate against race but the person interviewing may have some prejudices that we are not aware of, and he/she can make a case for someone of a race they prefer.  Nobody asks about creed, but assumptions are made based on ethnic backgrounds.  However, religious organisations should be careful about claiming they do not discriminate based on creed because it may affect how their organisation is run.  Sex is obvious but sexual orientation is not always so blatant.  There will be subtle discrimination.  You might say it is not true discrimination because employers have to take all these factors into account when they narrow down their list of potential hirees.  True, but to be nondiscriminatory you have to be blinded to those factors.  You should only look at the relevant work experience and education.  For this very reason, I do not believe there is true equality.  Many equal opportunity employers start developing quotas and filling in positions with people from various backgrounds.  That again shows discrimination.  It’s all a game.

To go back to our case.  The police officer seems to be making the point that the TSG is behind the times when it comes to women’s rights.  The police force is supposed to be equal opportunity, though many people do not take these opportunities because they feel that they are discriminatory.  Yet, they did offer this woman the opportunity and she took it.  Now she demands that they give her more privileges.  As I said in another blog, can women expect the same pay as men if they do not do the same job?  To fill their quota, they hired some women and now, one of those women is showing that perhaps, not all women can do a man’s job.  Especially if she wants to also do the womanly duties of motherhood.  Is it right for anyone to fight to keep a job that they are not qualified to do?  This woman fought to keep her job and now has a viral infection.  Now she is fighting because she developed that viral infection.

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