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.
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.