Test pattern or job discrimination: The paradox of ability tests in hiring, Christine M. Riordan, PhD and Robert D. Gatewood, PhD

July 25, 2012

HR.BLR.com

On July 19, 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced it reached a settlement with Leprino Foods on a discrimination suit. The dispute involved the company’s practice of using ability tests to assess candidates’ skills in applied mathematics, locating information, and observation, for hiring laborers. The DOL held that these tests had adverse impact on Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans.

The DOL claimed that these groups of applicants scored lower on the tests, on average, than did Caucasian applicants and Leprino, therefore, did not hire them. More importantly, the DOL cited a lack of evidence from the company to prove these ability tests related to job performance. In the settlement, Leprino agreed to pay back-wages of over $550,000 to those applicants it did not hire and will ultimately employ 13 of the original applicants. This illustrates a dilemma in hiring practices facing many organizations. And, it will only increase as the demographic and ethnic populations of the labor pool changes.