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Employers may not discriminate based on ability tests in hiring

The Olympians dominating the news this past week have had their abilities scrutinized, critiqued and tested for all the world to see as they race, perform and compete their way toward gold. However, it is not only athletes who must have their abilities tested in order to reach significant goals. Students, professionals and average employees alike are often tested before they may advance to the next level of their given pursuits.

It may be entirely appropriate for an employer to require an applicant to submit to a test of ability before hiring him or her. However, the ways in which these tests are administered and judged must be fair for all who submit to them. Unfortunately, ability tests in hiring too often result in explicit or unintentional race discrimination by employers.

This past July the Department of Labor (DOL) addressed the issue of discriminatory tests of ability in hiring. Specifically, though its announcement of a lawsuit settlement involving such discrimination, it put employers on notice that such behavior will not be tolerated.

The settlement involved a dairy producer who was required to pay more than a half million dollars to applicants who were effectively discriminated against during the hiring process. The pre-employment testing that the company used in the past effectively resulted in artificial barriers which adversely impacted minority applicants. In this particular instance, the company tested various academic skills unrelated to the laborer positions it was hiring for.

While pre-employment testing may give employers a good indication of how employees may fare in potential positions, the testing must be done carefully, fairly and without adverse impacts on minority employees specifically.

Source: Human Resource Executive Online, "Discrimination Ruling Puts Employers to the Test," Tom Starner, Aug. 1, 2012

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