Volume 2, Issue 2, 2002
The Moral Ambiguity of Job Qualifications
When people seek to overcome discrimination in employment they often appeal to the principle that ‘one should be hired on the basis of qualifications alone’. But do we know what the principle means? And would applying it solve the problems of discrimination in employment? We may take the claim to mean that certain aspects of a person such as her race, religion and attractiveness that are thought to be irrelevant to almost all jobs should not be considered in employment decisions. But in this we would be mistaken. This paper argues that the concept of ‘qualification’, far from being purely descriptive, is morally loaded and a function of an employer’s choices and purposes. As a result, appealing to the principle alone cannot prevent discrimination for issues of discrimination in employment are embedded in the ethical issues of ownership, management and the social responsibilities of a business.