Human Resources News & Insights

EEOC warns against screenings and tests that discriminate

Tests and other screening methods can be effective for determining whether someone’s a good fit for your organization. The problem comes in when the test results are used the wrong way or to the disadvantage of a particular group – even unintentionally.

Here are two example problem areas cited by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

1. Strength and dexterity
For certain manual-labor jobs, you require that candidates take a standard strength and dexterity test. And you require the test of every applicant for that type of job. So far, so good. That’s legal.

However, suppose few or no women are able to pass the test, and just about every person you hire for the job is male. That could be a problem if EEOC comes knocking or an unsuccessful candidate decides to sue.

How to protect yourself: Double-check and certify that the test requirements are closely related to job in question, and not just general requirements that someone dreamed up years ago. For instance, if a worker is routinely required to lift 50 pounds or climb steps, it’s reasonable to test for that, and to accept only candidates who meet those requirements.

2. Reading and aptitude
Consider this situation. Sitting before you is an applicant who, for a variety of reasons, appears to have problems communicating in English but otherwise seems qualified. Question: Can you require a reading test for the applicant to ensure he or she will meet minimum standards? Answer: It depends.

If you routinely give the reading test to all applicants for that job, you’re pretty much in the clear. But if you selectively give the test, and it appears that your targets come mainly from certain ethnic or racial groups, you have a problem – whether or not you intentionally target such groups or it just happens that way.

How to protect yourself: Probably your best bet is to decide whether such a test is necessary to determine if the person can do the job, and then go ahead and give the test to all such applicants. Remember, again, that the test must be related to the job, just as with the strength and dexterity test.

To see EEOC’s full advisory on the topic, go to:

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