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Make sure job skills tests measure what prospective employees actually will do

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

You’ve just created a new position and a job description to go with it. That description includes essential job functions, as well as education and training requirements. Now you want to create a skills test to make sure applicants can do the job.

Not so fast! Before you have the first applicant take the test, double-check that your test measures the attributes related to the essential functions you specified in the job description. If it doesn’t, redesign the test until you are certain the examination will tell you whether the applicant has the skills you need.

Recent case: Dana LeBlanc, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair, worked part time as a tutor at Lamar State College. She helped students with computer skills problems. Another part-time tutor handled math and English.

When the college decided to hire one full-time tutor, it created a new job description, which specified the abilities to tutor in math, English and computer skills as essential functions. It then created a test that measured all three skills in direct proportion to the number of students who had sought tutoring in each subject. About 40% of the test was for computer skills; the rest measured math and English skills.

Of the two applicants, LeBlanc scored lowest on the overall test. She wasn’t selected and sued under the Texas Labor Code’s disability discrimination provisions.

But the Court of Appeals of Texas tossed out her case. It reasoned that the newly created job description was logical—it required skills in all tutoring areas—and the test reflected the essential functions an applicant would have to perform. LeBlanc couldn’t expect the college to hire someone who didn’t have the right skill set to perform the job. Her disability was irrelevant. (LeBlanc v. Lamar State College, No. 09-06-340, Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, 2007)

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