Personality Tests May Be Unintentionally Discriminatory
Pre-employment personality testing is becoming increasingly popular with employers. Administering the tests online, instead of using paper and pencil, as was done in the past, has made it easier to test larger numbers of job applicants. This increase in personality testing carries with it a new risk: As the amount of data obtained from test takers grows, the ability to prove unintentional bias grows along with it.
It’s legal to use pre-employment tests, as long as the tests don’t discriminate against applicants in protected groups. Problems can arise if the tests unintentionally screen out protected group members. The large data sets that are now accumulating, made up of information from tests that have already been taken, could make it easier to prove a case against an employer. The more data that is available, the more that incriminating statistical relationships showing bias could become apparent.
So far, legal challenges based on pre-employment personality testing have been relatively rare, in part because applicants usually don’t know how much impact the tests have had on the employment decisions. However, the EEOC recently stated in its draft enforcement plan that it will be giving its highest enforcement priority to claims of systemic discrimination in recruitment and hiring, including claims involving pre-employment testing.
In a case that settled in July, a food manufacturer paid $550,000 in back pay to minority applicants who failed a pre-employment skills test. The Department of Labor claimed the test had a disparate impact on minority test-takers and that it measured skills that were not relevant to the jobs being sought.
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Tags: Employment Discrimination, Preventing Discrimination and Harassment