Employers and assessment providers have tried to distinguish their assessments by arguing that their assessments were designed to measure “normal” personalities and/or “stable” personality traits. That argument fails because the FFM measures both sides of the same coin. As noted in the ADA, FFM and DSM post, the five-factor model of personality is widely accepted as representing the higher-order structure of both normal and abnormal personality traits.
By its design, a test that measures so-called “normal” personalities and seeks to identify individuals with “stable personality traits” screens out (or reveals) persons who may not possess “normal” personalities and/or “stable” personality traits – persons like military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, college students diagnosed with bipolar disorder and mothers with post-partum depression – persons whom the ADA was enacted (and amended) to protect.
Similarly, an employment assessment is designed to reveal a person with a mental impairment (a red or blue bead) by distinguishing that person from a “normal” person (a white bead).
In the words of the Karraker court (please see the Courts Find Tests to be Illegal post), an employment assessment utilizing an FFM-based model is “designed, at least in part, to reveal mental illness and has the effect of hurting the employment prospects of one with a mental disability” and, as such, “is best categorized as a medical examination.”
Some assessment companies make it very clear that their tests are designed to identify and exclude persons with mental illnesses. Clearfit advertises itself as a “hiring tool for finding job applicants and predicting who will succeed.” According to the company’s website, “each applicant is scored against a Success Profile: a combination of personality and motivation traits that predict success in a particular role.”
And what happens if personality is not taken into account? According to Clearfit, one of the consequences is “27.2 days/yr. lost productivity for depressed workers.” Thus making it clear that the personality assessment should be used to eliminate from employment consideration those persons suffering from a mental illness, like mothers with post-partum depression.
A screenshot from the Clearfit webpage is set out below: