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Protect job applicants’ answer sheets from written tests

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in Human Resources

Applicants had to pass three tests to be considered for a quality helper position at a Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. (3M) plant. Mary Austin failed all three.

She claims the company altered her test scores to disqualify her, an African-American woman over age 40, for the promotion. She testified that she had scored well on a pretest and said her test answers obviously had been changed because the X's marking the answers were different.

3M provided copies of the answer sheets, plus affidavits from the test proctor and grader saying they didn't tamper with them. That wasn't enough to get a court to dismiss Austin's suit. The 8th Circuit said a court should decide who is telling the truth. (Austin v. Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co., No. 98-2670, 8th Cir., 1999)

Advice: Keep test results and other personnel documents clean and secure. There may have been a rational, nondiscriminatory explanation for erasures on Austin's test results. The employer might not have had to present that explanation to a jury if Austin had been asked to sign and initial her answer sheets before the test was scored.

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