Adverse impact occurs where there is a statistically significant difference between selection, promotional, or compensation levels between members of a protected class and an appropriate comparison group. However, according to the 1991 Civil Rights Act, this difference only amounts to discrimination if the tools used to make the business decision are invalid and not consistent with business necessity. In other words, numerical and significant differences between the selection rates of groups are allowed, as long as the tools responsible for those differences are in and of themselves valid and reliable and have been developed following a rigid, standard, and legally defensible validation strategy. But the employer is still responsible to show how the test is job-related and meets a business necessity, even in these cases.
Since the release of the April 2008 OFCCP guidelines update and some recent case law, the determination process now includes looking at the actual tools and systems used within the selection and promotion systems. Validity and reliability tests will be completed by OFCCP’s new statisticians on these tools to ensure that they do not treat protected classes differently than they treat comparison groups. In the old days, OFCCP audits were not too bad. Today, they look like the process EEOC uses to evaluate disparate impact.
This new OFCCP analysis for disparate impact includes a thorough review of:
- the Job Analysis results in which the skills, knowledge and abilities and personal characteristics were evaluated within a particular job are identified
- how these skills, knowledge and abilities map back to the specific steps of the selection, promotion or termination processes
- how tests that are administered in fact measure the skills, knowledge or abilities essential for success in the position
- the job description, to ensure that it is current and accurately reflects the essential functions the position within the company’s own environment
This much more rigorous assessment of selection, promotional and termination criteria could cause significant difficulties for many employers who are relying on old, non-existent practices or those who allow their hiring managers to utilize their own preferred processes.
The environment is further compounded through the use of popular internet selection systems, where potential candidates are allowed to apply for any job opening or can post their resumes on job sites whether they meet the stated qualifications or not. Job seekers can perform searches to attach their resume to any number of open and advertised positions, with little consideration for the job title or understanding the selection process of the company offering the position. Recent guidelines hold the potential employer accountable to track race, age, gender, and ethnicity data about all applicants. This is why, at ECI, we added the tracking criteria to our eci-assessments site for all test takers. When employers need the data, it will be available for all candidates who reached the assessment step.
In the absence of clear definition of an “applicant” by the employer, potential problems arise in determining how to track candidate data and determining whether the applicant is in fact even interested in being considered for the position. When employers have no standardized steps in their selection process, if the selection criteria is vague or if the steps are very loose, then almost every person who provides information may be considered a viable candidate for the job opening, regardless of whether they meet the qualifications for the job or not.
While the OFCCP has recently released guidelines on who internet “applicants” are, these guidelines are quite broad and can be troublesome when the employer has no additional, consistent steps through which all applicants must pass before becoming a candidate for consideration. Having in place a selection process that includes multiple, valid, job-specific criteria against which applicants are assessed is the first step, but not the only step necessary to comply.
Many companies incorporate on-line, computer or paper-based testing within their processes to evaluate a candidate’s particular knowledge, behavioral skills and abilities. Any tests that you use should meet the standards for testing set out by the American Psychological Association and should follow the guidelines set forth by the EEOC. Online tests fall under the same rigorous standards as do all other types of tests used for selection.
Best practices for testing and selection cited by the EEOC include:
1. Employers should administer tests and other selection procedures without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age (40 or older), or disability.
2. Employers should ensure that employment tests and other selection procedures are properly validated for the positions and purposes for which they are used. The test or selection procedure must be job-related and its results appropriate for the employer’s purpose. While a test vendor’s documentation supporting the validity of a test may be helpful, the employer is still responsible for ensuring that its tests are valid under the Uniform Guidelines for Employment Selection Procedures.
3. If a selection procedure screens out a protected group, the employer should determine whether there is an equally effective alternative selection procedure that has less adverse impact and, if so, adopt the alternative procedure. For example, if the selection procedure is a test, the employer should determine whether another test would predict job performance, but not disproportionally exclude the protected group.
4. To ensure that a test or selection procedure remains predictive of success in a job, employers should keep abreast of changes in job requirements and should update the test specifications or selection procedures accordingly.
5. Employers such ensure that tests and selection procedures are not adopted casually by managers who know little about these processes. A test or selection procedure can be an effective management tool, but no tool or selection procedure should be implemented without an understanding of its effectiveness and limitations for the organization, its appropriateness for a specific job, and whether it can be appropriately administered and score.
Or is your test used as a tool to provide additional information to support your interview process? In either case, the
results from any test should not make up more than 20% of the hiring decision in order to comply with fair selection
standards. The results from tests, such as personality measures, can enhance the reliability and validity of your
processes, providing that these tests have been professionally prepared and rigorously validated. Ensuring that any
tests you administer are in fact valid and reliable, and that they are shown to be valid and reliable against your own
population and environment, are additional steps you will need to complete.
It is no longer acceptable to take the word of your outside test or system provider that tools or a criterion is valid. You will need to ask to see the diligence that went into validation and reliability studies by requesting the technical report or validation report for these tools. These reports should include item analysis, EEO scores comparison for protected classes, show that no disparate impact results through the administration of the tool, and should provide statistical data concerning face validity and content reliability, all based on a statistically significant population of results. If no report is available, or the study lacks rigor, you should immediately find another, more valid assessment tool.
Also, your test or system provider should have professional experts who can revalidate their tools against your jobs and in your own environment. They should be able to show that no adverse impact occurs as a result of the use of their tools for your particular jobs through a statistical study process. If your providers cannot do this for you, look for another vendor.
Filed under: Hiring Employees, New Perspectives, Organizational Development | Tagged: Hiring criteria, selectio process, using personality tests | 1 Comment »