Women accounted for half of new hires at an Iowa meatpacker—until the company instituted a new pre-hire lifting test. Then the percentage of women fell to 15%. Fifty-two female applicants who failed the test and weren’t hired sued for discrimination and won $3.3 million.
The seven-minute test required applicants to lift 35 pounds 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; only 40% of women did. (EEOC v. Dial Corporation, No. 05-4183, 8th Cir.)
Advice: Before you create an applicant screening test, make sure it relates directly to the work the person will be doing. Then, evaluate the test regularly to see whether it’s causing you to reject a disproportionate number of “protected” applicants (e.g., women, minorities). The EEOC is actively pursuing employers whose tests change the workplace composition.
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