Before you create an applicant screening test—whether it’s for a manual-labor or white-collar position—make sure that it relates directly to the work that person will be doing. “Somewhat applicable” tests won’t fly in court.
After you implement a new test, evaluate it regularly to see if it’s causing you to turn away a disproportionate number of “protected” applicants (women, minorities, etc.).
If you suddenly have fewer women or minorities employed, expect trouble. The EEOC is actively pursuing employers whose new screening tests change the workplace composition.
Recent case: The EEOC sued an Iowa meatpacking company after an investigation revealed that more female applicants were being rejected after the company instituted a new prehire test.
Before the new test, women accounted for 46 percent of those hired for sausage-packer jobs. After, that percentage fell to just 15 percent, even though the proportion of female and male applicants stayed the same.
A jury decided the company discriminated against 52 women who failed the test and weren’t hired. The women were awarded $3.3 million, and a federal appeals court just upheld the award.
The seven-minute test required applicants to lift 35 pounds of sausages at least six times per minute. But the EEOC showed that employees, while at work, performed just 1.3 lifts per minute. Almost all men passed the test, but only 40 percent of women did. (EEOC v. Dial Corporation, No. 05-4183, 8th Cir., 2006)
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