Los Angeles Times (editorial by Margaret A. Hagen): If ever the road to hell is paved with good intentions, it will be paved diagnosis by diagnosis with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's new guidelines forbidding employment discrimination and mandating employer accommodation of mental disabilities.
The American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual lists 374 mental disorders that are potentially deserving of accommodation by employers under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.
The office worker who suffers from Tourette's disorder, for example, must be allowed an adjustment in his or her working conditions that takes account of the uncontrollable urge to snarl and shout out obscenities.
The depressive who is groggy in the morning from medication is not asked to rise earlier in order to be fully awake for the job because the EEOC has specified that it is the employer who is required to accommodate the sleepiness.
Even where the disabled worker suffers from "intermittent explosive disorder"&md;repeated "episodes of failure to resist aggressive impulses that result in serious acts or destruction of property"&md;the workplace must accommodate him.
As a number of experts have noted, the new guidelines in many respects amount to a license to behave badly; Lateness, absenteeism, slovenliness, carelessness or rudeness must be accommodated if these behaviors are linked to a psychological condition.
But the category of disorder that most boggles the mind as necessitating employer accommodation rather than employee behavioral adjustment is that of the personality disorders, especially "antisocial personality disorder." Persons with this affliction used to be known as sociopaths.
According to the psychiatric diagnostic manual, this distressing disorder is characterized by "repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest...repeated lying, use of aliases or conning others for personal profit or pleasure...irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults, reckless disregard for safety of self or others, consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations."
It is impossible to imagine the range of accommodations necessary to turn such a person into a productive worker who will not be dangerous to the life or well-being of fellow employees, employers or the business itself.
Only people who work in the insulated world of civil service could possibly have perpetrated such a hideous suspension of common sense as employer accommodation to sociopathy.
Only psychological professionals whose bread and butter is provided by the proliferation of so-called mental disorders could possibly conceptualize such behavior as manifestation of illness, to be accommodated on a par with arthritis, say, or cancer.
Only a society that has completely and comprehensively medicalized the concept of bad behavior could possibly entertain the idea that it is the employer's job to allow for the remorseless lying, stealing, aggressive sociopath.
Congress sensibly has exempted from the EEOC rules those persons diagnosed with the "disorders" of kleptomania, pyromania and compulsive gambling, as well as many of the sexual disorders such as pedophilia, and those of alcohol and drug abuse.
Congress should extend this rational approach to the rest of the mental diagnostic manual.
Let disorders be introduced one by one and defended by mental health professionals as genuinely biologically determined before requiring any employer to change the conditions of the job or the workplace to accommodate them.
Reasonable accommodation to and mindless discrimination has become mindless accommodation to irresponsible behavior.