Uncommon side: The slow learner -- part II

This case touched off a firestorm of controversy among engineering professionals. Some feel passionately that promoting Joe Chernoff, a candidate with Attention Deficit Disorder, could, in Stephen Nichols' words, "set a dangerous precedent.

10/01/1998


This case touched off a firestorm of controversy among engineering professionals. Some feel passionately that promoting Joe Chernoff, a candidate with Attention Deficit Disorder, could, in Stephen Nichols' words, "set a dangerous precedent." Still others disagree.

Electrical Engineer Wayne M. Perdue concedes the issue is controversial. Afflicted with ADD himself, Perdue sides with Chernoff. So does Bill Stone, who says, "Chernoff should be tested. If he does have ADD, he should be given more time." Raymond O'Rourke also agrees. "If a grievance is filed," he says, "there isn't a prayer of the company coming out unscathed."

But Joe Fair doesn't see it that way. "Working with electricity is extremely hazardous. [An ADD person] may place himself or others in harm's way." Gregory Pavlov compares the ADD worker to someone with 5-yr experience competing with others who have 20-yr experience. "Competence," he adds, "should be the only criterion for the candidate's selection, regardless of disabilities."

Brad Finch wonders about the test's relevancy. Lacking relevancy to job performance, it would not stand up in court. Assuming the test is relevant, Kevin Smith comments, "If an applicant can't pass the test as it is, I don't want him guarding my safety."

Does Chernoff have a viable case? A lawyer friend of reader Douglas Moon thinks he certainly has, and ridicules the supervisor for telling Chernoff that everyone and his brother would demand special accommodation.

If Chernoff does have a case, Mike Hunsaker feels, it is only for a future case, assuming he obtains supporting documentation and adds it to his file. To be valid, he says, Chernoff must have documentation before, not after, he decides to sue.

Does he indeed have a case? Maybe yes, maybe no, in the opinion of Uncommon Side's expert, educator and former American Arbitration Association arbitrator Leonard J. Smith. "These days," he says, "everyone is ready to sue at the remotest hint of a case. Management is damned if it does, and damned if it doesn't. Where borderline, the prevalent tendency is to find the company at fault. The big question is are you before a hanging judge or not?

"Management is between a rock and a hard place," Smith says. "If Chernoff should be given more time, how much more? How would his time needs affect job performance? Most important, what does the company's legal counsel have to say?"

Smith adds one more interesting thought. "Why not give Chernoff all the time he needs to complete the test? Then compare the results against the others. Unless he proves to be the best qualified, you do not have to promote him."





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