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Training tests may provide important screening opportunities

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Do your new hires have to complete a comprehensive training and testing program before they’re allowed to start work? If so, your program may provide important opportunities to screen out bad hires early on.

If you can show your tests are valid and necessary (and they don’t disproportionately screen out any particular protected class), chances are a new employee who alleges discrimination because you didn’t keep him won’t get far with a lawsuit.

Here’s why: If the test measures whether a new employee meets the minimum qualifications, he won’t be able to argue he was qualified for the position. That’s one of his first legal hurdles.

Recent case: Theron Carr, who is black, accepted a job as a platform operator with an oil company. He had to undergo extensive training before being placed on the job. But Carr passed just one of five tests after training. Plus, Carr’s supervisors said he seemed to have trouble grasping the information covered during training. The employer declined to retain Carr.

He sued, alleging discrimination. But the court threw out the case. It reasoned that the tests measured knowledge essential to the job—and that no one else with such poor scores was allowed to keep the job. Simply put, the results showed Carr wasn’t qualified. (Carr v. Murphy Oil, No. 07-30776, 5th Cir., 2008)

Advice: Keep all test results for all candidates and employees. If the company had retained employees who had scores similar to Carr’s but who did not belong to Carr’s protected class, the case might have turned out differently.

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