Are you considering using personality or other screening tests to decide which job applicants to hire? If so, make sure you fully understand what you are doing and how those tests work.
There are plenty of companies eager to sell you tests and assessments that they say will take some of the work out of the screening processes.
But if those tests aren’t valid and end up screening out members of a protected class (such as applicants with disabilities), you may be buying more than a test. You may be buying a lawsuit, too.
Note: If your applicant screening tests appear to have the effect of eliminating disabled applicants from consideration, expect the EEOC to get involved in the lawsuit. The commission is stepping up efforts to end such practices.
Recent case: Vicky Sandy is hearing- and speech-impaired. She applied for various open positions at a Kroger grocery store, including cashier, bagger and stocker. She didn’t get any of the jobs.
Sandy went to the EEOC and complained, alleging that a hiring manager had told her she “would not be a good fit for any openings because of the way that I speak.”
The EEOC opened an investigation and soon learned that Kroger used a screening test it called a “Customer Service Assessment” designed by Kronos, a workforceservices company. Kronos claims its assessment measures “the human traits that underlie strong service orientation and , such as controlling impatience, showing respect, listening attentively, working well on a team and being sensitive to others’ feelings.”
Kronos claimed in its marketing that applicants who performed well on the assessment are more likely to be “cheerful, polite and friendly,” and able to “communicate well with customers.”
According to the interview notes and assessment score, the store manager concluded that Sandy “is less likely to listen carefully, understand and remember.”
The EEOC zeroed in on Kronos, pointed to its assessment instrument as a potentially discriminatory practice that singled out speech- and hearing-impaired applicants who were perfectly capable of serving as store cashiers, baggers and stockers despite their disabilities.
The EEOC expanded the investigation to include all hearing- or speech-impaired applicants nationwide who had taken the Kronos assessment. It demanded access to any manuals that supported the assessments, plus any studies or information showing that the assessment was valid—that is, that it actually predicted what it claimed to predict.
Kronos protested, claiming that releasing the information would reveal its business secrets. But the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals said the EEOC was entitled to the information in order to determine whether Sandy and others like her had been discriminated against because of their disabilities. (EEOC v. Kronos, No. 09-3219, 3rd Cir., 2010)
Final note: You can’t hide behind the company that supplied the test if you are challenged on the test’s validity. Do your homework before relying on any assessment instrument. In addition, never use a test such as this one as an absolute and final screening tool.
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