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Affirmative Action and Sexual Favors
by Diana Mertz Hsieh

Date: 16 Dec 94
Forum: Washington University in St-Louis, Argumentation class
Copyright: Diana Mertz Hsieh

Note: This essay was written for an assignment on arguments from analogy.

Affirmative action programs, despite their good intentions, actually hurt employees in the same way that bosses who advance employees for sexual favors harm them, because affirmative action programs force employers to hire and promote on characteristics irrelevant to job performance, just like the boss who seeks sexual favors. Advancement based upon non-merit considerations creates an atmosphere of distrust in the workplace, results in passing over more qualified candidates in favor of those possessing the desired inessential trait, and often places the promoted individual in a job which they do not have the skills to perform well.

When companies are subject to affirmative action programs, they must take traits such as gender and sex into account when hiring, and actually hiring the best candidate for the position may very well be outright illegal or result in a lawsuit. Bosses who seek sexual favors might also pass up the best candidate in favor of the employee who is sexually appealing or even willing to have sex with him. The attributes of gender, race, and sexual services rendered are not at all related to an employee's job performance, and thus many of the negative effects of affirmative action programs and advancement in exchange for sexual favors will be identical.

Both types of workplaces create an atmosphere of distrust among the employees and the management, because it can be difficult to ascertain whether the hired employees are qualified. Where affirmative action programs are in place, minorities employees will be suspected of being incompetent, even if they actually were hired on merit. Those minorities who are hired because they were most qualified for the job will have the extra burden of proving to others, and possibly even to themselves, that they truly deserved the position. In the same respect, if a boss is promoting people in exchange for sexual favors, employees will have a difficult time ascertaining whether the promotion was deserved. The class of people from whom the boss attempts to gain sexual favors would be suspected of caving into his desires, even if they had not. In both cases, the trust that is so vital for an efficient workplace is destroyed.

A loss of valuable talent is also an inevitable effect of affirmative action programs and of exchanging sexual favors for advancement. Under affirmative action programs, the most qualified person for a position will often be passed up for a lesser-quality candidate who fulfills the affirmative action requirements. Over time, any company will suffer from the passing over of better job candidates, which will eventually hurt all of the employees of the company, due to lost profits. In offices where sexual favors override merit-based considerations, the most qualified people for various positions might never even be considered if the boss can't get what he wants from them.

Finally, people that are promoted based on gender, ethnic background, or willingness to do sexual favors might very well be placed in a position for which they do not have the necessary skills. The victim of affirmative action will either have to give up the job, struggle to acquire the necessary skills, or rely on their gender or skin color to retain the job. The employees who are advanced through sexual favors face basically the same choices, although they must attempt to use sex.

There is one significant distinction between the effects of affirmative action programs and the effects of exchanging sexual favors for promotion: no matter where an individual goes to work, the affirmative action programs are in effect, but exchanging advancement for sexual favors is not as widespread, nor does not have the force of law behind it. Affirmative action programs are federally mandated, and so all companies and employees are subject, to one degree or another, to their harmful effects. But the problems caused by exchanging sexual favors for work can be rooted out by the company, and employees who are not willing to bring the issue to full attention can always seek work in a more hospitable environment. The inescapability of affirmative action programs only serves to illustrate how much more dangerous the effects of affirmative action programs than the effects of sexual favors are.

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