Friday, November 29, 2013

Employment Testing: Hot Button Issue for EEOC and OFCCP

On October 30, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that federal construction contractor M.C. Dean Inc. had settled allegations that it failed to provide equal employment opportunity to 381 African American, Hispanic and Asian American workers who applied for jobs at the company's Dulles headquarters. A review by the department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs determined that the contractor used a set of selection procedures, including invalid tests, which unfairly kept qualified minority candidates from securing jobs as apprentices and electricians.
"Our nation was built on the principles of fair play and equal opportunity, and artificial barriers that keep workers from securing good jobs violate those principles," said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu. "I am pleased that this settlement will provide remedies to the affected workers and that M.C. Dean has agreed to invest significant resources to improve its hiring practices so that this never happens again."
Under the terms of the agreement, M.C. Dean will pay $875,000 in back wages and interest to 272 African American, 98 Hispanic and 11 Asian American job applicants who were denied employment in 2010. The contractor will also extend 39 job offers to the class members as opportunities become available. Additionally, M.C. Dean has agreed to undertake extensive self-monitoring measures and personnel training to ensure that all of its employment practices fully comply with Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment on the bases of race, color and national origin.
This settlement provides (at least) two lessons to all federal contractors.  First, the OFCCP is digging deeper than just the overall applicant-to-hire adverse impact analyses.  Where there is overall applicant-to-hire adverse impact in the hiring process, the Agency will analyze each stage (screen, test, interview, offer, etc.) in the hiring processes for adverse impact.  Second, where there is adverse impact at the testing stage, employers must evaluate the validity of their “tests.”  In these cases, OFCCP will request and send the validation materials to its Industrial-Organization Psychologist for review, so it must be able to withstand scrutiny, including whether the test has been (i) validated recently, (ii) validated for the employer’s specific position, and (iii) that there are not less discriminatory methods for achieving the same predictive results of job performance.   
In particular, employers who are using employment tests that have never been validated, have not been validated for the specific position for which they are being used, have not been validated for their specific company, have not been reviewed by someone other than the testing vendor who created the test, or have not been revalidated as the position changed over time may not realize they may be “at risk” in these audits. 
In short, own each step of your hiring process – even if a third-party testing vendor created and/or administers your test, the employer will be held accountable if the test causes adverse impact and is not properly validated.  Employers need to get in front of these testing issues by analyzing the test’s potential adverse impact and existing validation to minimize exposure during audits.  Notably, this has also become a “hot button” for EEOC, so taking a close look at your tests can help minimize exposure to both OFCCP and EEOC claims.

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