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Asheville Citizen-Times
August 16, 1998

Book Lists Problems With Employment Lawauthor Criticizes Multiplicity Of Remedies

By Myron Leonard

Western Electric's telephone cable installing operation called for a lot of work in confined and dusty spaces that was typically assigned to junior installers.

This work might seem a peculiarly unsuitable career choice for an asthmatic person, but one applied anyway and sued for the right to skip the grungier jobs and proceed directly to the more desirable "low-dust" assignments.

A federal judge ruled that the unpleasant tasks were not an essential part of the job description and could be assigned to co-workers.

This is one of the many examples given in Walter Olson's book, "The Excuse Factory: How Employment Law Is Paralyzing the American Workplace."

Citing key players, law review articles, court decisions and legislation, Olson shows how the United States has created a nightmare of contradictory regulations. The book is direct and well-documented, and its sarcastic tone appears warranted given the situations described.

Although at no point does the author advocate discrimination, he does present a negative view of the interpretation of the employment laws (those beginning in the mid-1960s).

"It is hard to spend very much time among the documents that employment law leaves behind ... without being struck by the number of spectacular injustices and irrationalists the law has produced."


Title: "The Excuse Factory: How Employment Law Is Paralyzing the American Workplace."

Author: Walter K. Olson.

Publisher: The Free Press.

Length: 378 pages.

Price: $25.

Reading Time: 15 hours.

Reading Rating: 9 (1 = very difficult, 10 = very easy).

Overall Rating: 3 (1 = average, 4 = outstanding).

Yet he believes that injustice is only one consequence of employment law:

"In its zeal to provide a remedy for everything that might go wrong at work, the law too often undercuts the quest for competence and excellence ... Rather than bringing a new liberation to our working hours, it has begun to stifle free expression, curb the sense of limitless possibility that characterizes the best jobs, and subtract from the pleasing diversity' of which we hear so much today."

In addition to detailing numerous inappropriate renderings of the law, frequent references to the costs of litigation are provided. "Reasonable accommodation" had been interpreted as "cost is no object," and it has been estimated that the cost of simply bringing a case to trial is likely to exceed $100,000.

©1998 Asheville Citizen-Times

Visit The Excuse Factory webpage



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