Safety and OSHA News

5 keys to weed out injury-prone workers — legally


Just how tricky is it to use tests to weed out injury-prone workers without getting dragged into court for alleged discrimination? Statistics from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission spell it out.

From 2003 to 2006, the number of charges of job discrimination filed with the EEOC regarding employment testing and other screening tools went up 542%.

One example: EEOC v. Dial Corp., in which a federal court has held that a strength test didn’t sufficiently mirror the job and disproportionately screened out women.

Have pre-employment tests to screen out injury-prone workers become too risky? No, and in fact, the EEOC itself has released guidelines for companies to make sure they don’t run afoul of federal anti-discrimination laws when using pre-employment tests.

‘Disparate impact’

What kind of problem is the EEOC looking for? Besides blatant discrimination, there’s the situation in the Dial case called “disparate impact.”

For example, if an employer requires all applicants to pass a physical agility test, does the test disproportionately screen out women or older workers?

If that’s the case, the company needs to show that the selection procedure is job-related and consistent with business necessity. Dial ran into trouble because its test was more difficult than the actual work.

Even if the employer shows the test is job-related, the company can still find itself in trouble if another test is a workable, less discriminatory alternate.

Employer best practices for testing

Companies can steer clear of discrimination connected to post-offer testing if they follow these steps:

  • Ensure that tests are valid for the positions for which they’re used.
  • Administer tests without regard to sex, race, color, national origin, religion, age or disability. In other words, if you test one applicant, test all.
  • If testing screens out a protected group, the employer should at least try to find an equally effective process that has a less adverse effect on the group.
  • Employers should change testing if job requirements change. Example: If some lifting is eliminated with new equipment, testing for that type of lifting should be eliminated.
  • Let hiring managers know that they can’t casually adopt physical testing. HR and safety should be involved before any new tests are launched.

For more on the EEOC’s guidelines, click here.

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  1. Eric Radke says:

    No value to me on this one – it said “injury-prone.” I was hoping for info on handling employees with a known history, not a potential affinity.

  2. I agree with Eric. I need advice how do deal with existing employees who are injury prone.

  3. I agree with Eric, can you publish an article on dealing with employees having a history of repeated injuries, and necessarily of the same kind. I feel an article of that nature will be very helpful for all.

  4. I tend to agree with Eric, as well, however I reviewed our accident reports for the past five years and noticed that the persons we would consider “accident prone” and had more than one injury, were injured because of someone else’s shortcomings – failure to post signs, not looking, rushing, etc. When I think back, the accident prone person doesn’t usually hurt themselves, but the ones around them.

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