Test Pattern or Job Discrimination? The Paradox of Ability Tests in Hiring

Market Watch, July 23, 2012

{snip}

On July 19th, 2012, the 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 thirteen 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.

The dilemma is that renowned psychologists such as Frank Schmidt, John Hunter, and Philip Bobko have shown that ability tests, usually written tests that measure some form of knowledge, are exceptional predictors of job performance. Thus, as a tool for determining applicants’ suitability for jobs, they are among the best in predicting applicants’ future job performance.

However, the use of these tests usually results in adverse impact—meaning that employers that use these tests are less likely to hire non-Caucasians. This adverse impact triggers the interest of various governmental review agencies such as the DOL and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Employers must think critically about the use of strong selection tests that also have a high probability of rejecting a larger proportion of applicants of color and ethnic diversity than Caucasian applicants. Among the implications of this pattern of rejection: applicants may file discrimination suits and government agencies may review the selection program. Perhaps as importantly, though, the organization is cutting itself off from major segments of the labor pool that are becoming increasingly larger.

The paradox these tests pose by being a strong predictor of job performance but also creating an adverse impact has generated debate among organizational and human resource professionals. Even though court cases have upheld the use of ability tests with a clear relationship to job activities, some professionals have deep reservations about their use because of their impact on society.

{snip}

Employers can take several actions to attain high quality and defensible hiring practices that conform to the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (1978) and related court decisions.

The Uniform Guidelines explicitly state that an organization can use ability tests even if they have adverse impact if the organization can prove that the tests are job related. This proof can consist of correlation coefficients offering direct evidence that test scores relate to job performance or a series of steps that generate indirect data that show such a relationship to important job tasks.

However, employers must consider the benefits of having a highly diverse workforce.

Diversity in its workforce can improve an organization’s access to labor pools, its viewpoints on how to market to diverse consumer segments, a positive impact on public perceptions of the organization, an enhancement of the organization’s brand as an open employer and marketer, and a buttress to reduce the probability of discrimination suits and negative media attention.

Employers can put in place selection portfolios that achieve both of the following objectives: strong hiring practices and diversity goals. Generally ability tests are the least expensive and easiest type of selection instrument. However, other types of tests are clearly job related. These include work sample tests, which give the applicant part of a job task to do, and structured interviews, in which an interviewer asks detailed job-related questions.

Such instruments can have several advantages. Applicants, even those not hired, generally perceive them as fair. This perception reduces the possibility of legal complaints. Such methods also provide direct information about the job readiness of the applicant pool.

{snip}

Employers have used ability tests since the 1920’s and these have been quite effective and efficient. However for most of that time, the legal environment of business and the diversity of the labor pool have been very different than they are now. These trends make it necessary for each organization to carefully consider what its selection program should be and to carefully think about the diversity, legal, and societal implications of its portfolio of hiring practices.

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  • The correct answer is none of the above.  Congress should make the disparate impact test (and also the use of strict scrutiny for racial classifications) off limits for enforcement and judicial interpretation.

  • haroldcrews

    A recommendation I would make to this company is to continue testing all applicants.  Hire as many minorities as necessary to avoid discrimination lawsuits but no more.  Then keep tract of job performance in relation to performance on the test.  If there is a sufficiently high correlation between performance on the aptitude test and performance reviews that should start to establish the test as a legitimate determinate of job performance.  If the company has a sufficiently large enough labor force there would probably be a sizable percentage of employees who scored poorly on the job performance test but were still hired.  There is always a certain amount of nepotism in a large enough business.  This ought to have been sufficient to establish that the aptitude test was sufficiently predictive of job performance.  But most likely the discrimination lawsuit outcome for fore ordained.

    • JustaWhiteMom

      This is a crack in the marxist-capitalist open borders consensus that whites must exploit with all our might in the coming decades.  Affirmative action leveling is anti-capitalist but near and dear to the hearts of leftists.  This is a fight we will be able to win going forward. 

      It doesn’t matter that black and brown numbers are growning.  I am only now waking up to the fact that we have not been living in a democracy for some time, else the borders would have been sealed.  Whites will have to funnel money into anti-affirmative action causes and we will get our way.  The Supreme Court can say affirmative action is legal but this is an issue that is ultimately in the hands of Congress, which means it is subject to bribery, oops I mean “lobbying.”

  • It can get to the point as is the case in South Africa where the whites are the major tax contributor and  also the minority. Yet all affirmative action is against the white population. It is the only place in the world where although the political power is held by the majority ethnic group it is still necessary to force black people into jobs they are incapable of handling. This has caused a major brain drain in the country with skilled whites leaving. But a normal economically challenged one as myself am unable to get  the jobs I am suited for. Middle to upper management in this country has to go to black job-seekers. There has been no implosion because there are still a few whites in lower positions able to take up the slack. But this cant go on indefinitely. 

    • John_D01

      Cep Hatt,

      Honest question, how can you stay in that cesspool?  It might be absolutely horrible for whites there.  Is there simply no escaping for the average white there?  I’d do anything to get out.  Not judging you in any way, just saying what I’d do, because the handwriting is clearly on the wall. It’s going to get much, much worse for whites there, at a pretty rapid pace.  Of course, the same could be said for here, but not at the same pace as in SA, plus our new majority will be Mestizo, yours are already Blacks, and there’s a huge qualitative difference.

      • I thank you for your concern, but as you have pointed out most white South Africans do not have the means to leave, but believe me if I could leave I would.

  • JustaWhiteMom

    “Diversity in its workforce can improve an organization’s access to labor pools, its viewpoints on how to market to diverse consumer segments, a positive impact on public perceptions of the organization, an enhancement of the organization’s brand as an open employer and marketer, and a buttress to reduce the probability of discrimination suits and negative media attention.”

    In other words, diversity is not a strength except insofar as a diverse society makes it necessary. 

    • What some have referred to as Competitive Altruism, companies vying to appear politically correct for their advantage, I refer to as Preemptive Public Relations.

      These companies are not competing to appear altruistic, they’re simply and selfishly trying to counter charges of ‘racism’ by preemptively taking actions to appear politically correct.

      • SarahConnor

        Or as Derby said keep a couple of the most decent Blacks around you at work so as not to be called racist-i.e. preemptively taking actions to appear p.c.

  • Larssonenar

    It took me a long time to understand what assumptions lie behind this kind of disparate impact complaint. Circumstances caused me to finally put some time and thought into it, and found that there are at least six theses (which often operate as unstated diversity/multiculturalism movement that considers disparate impact a problem.

    (1a) Thesis one is that every non-white demographic group is morally, politically, economically, socially, civically, culturally, creatively, athletically, spiritually, intellectually and alethically (a) equal and (b) uniquely gifted.

    There is a tension, of course, between (1a) and (1b) but this is rarely noticed by those in the diversity movement. This article shows the tension. On the one hand, every demographic equal so every demographic should score equally on the tests. On the other hand, employers greatly benefit from a diverse workforce. But if every demographic is equal in the ways listed above, how can an organization be any better off being diverse? While (1a) and (1b) cannot both be true (as far as I can tell), they are both firmly entrenched in the liberal mind.

    (2) Derived from (1b) is the second thesis: that the health of moral, political, economic, social, civic, cultural, creative, athletic, spiritual, intellectual, and alethic units should be measured primarily or in large part by their level of (I) agreement with (1a) and (1b) and (II) their level of actual diversity in all of the listed areas.

    (3) The third thesis is that any variation in moral, political, economic, social, civic, cultural, creative, athletic, spiritual, intellectual, or alethic achievement amongst demographic groups—on account of their equality—can only be explained by environmental differences.

    (4) The fourth thesis is that the vast actual differences in achievement in all of these areas between whites and non-whites—both within the relatively limited context of twentieth and twenty-first century America and in terms of world history at least from the Ancient Greeks onwards—can only be explained by the particular environmental factor of systemic white racism (i.e. White Power).

    (5) The fifth thesis is that this pervasive White Power is morally, politically, economically, socially, civically, culturally, creatively, athletically, spiritually, intellectually and alethically repugnant. That is to say, the world is much worse now in all of these respects because of White Power and if Whites do not willingly and systematically relinquish that power the world will be destroyed morally, politically, economically, socially, civically, culturally, creatively, athletically, spiritually, intellectually and alethically.

    (6) According to thesis six, however, White Power is so bad, so pervasive, and so entrenched that while there is a categorical duty for them to never cease trying with all their might and money, whites will never be able to earn redemption. Rather, they are and ought to be condemned to live eternally like a combination of Sisyphus and Prometheus—perpetually laboring with all their strength to push a giant boulder to the top of a mountain, only to have it roll back down and hence need to be pushed back up, all the while having their livers eaten out every day by an eagle only to grow back at night and be eaten out again next day. So whites must spend all of their time, energy, and resources compensating minorities for trespasses that can literally never be expiated. And all the while the whites must apologize for being white and must be wracked with an overwhelming sense of shame and sorrow for being white. Not only must they never be forgiven by those they have exploited but even more importantly they must never forgive themselves.

  • Larssonenar

    I have an idea on how to fix this. Since all demographics are economically equal* we ought to just require businesses to do a demographic survey of the workforce in their vicinity (to be determined by some bureaucrats), and then allocate employment proportionally. If the vicinity is 13% black and 24% Hispanic, for instance, the company should have 13% black and 24% Hispanic employees. Within each demographic the company would be able to use any kind of tests they wanted to identify the top candidates.

    *Economic equality means that each demographic and each person within each demographic naturally has the same potential for poverty, wealth, economic responsibility, investment, entrepreneurship, employability, promotions and positions of power within companies and industries, and that each demographic and each person within each demographic is equally important to the economy in general and to each piece of the economy in particular (i.e., it is equally important for businesses to advertise to and be patronized by each demographic).

    • The__Bobster

      It doesn’t work that way. Racial activists like to look at local demograpics as the floor for quota hiring. And if the area is 100% White, they’ll use the county or state numbers.

      It only works one way. In the Federal government, minorities are grossly over-represented, yet they’ll look at each and every department and will seek to have consent orders issued against any one that is below the floor.

  • John_D01

    Meant *must be absolutely horrible*, not might be.

  • guest

    When things don’t go the non-whites’ way, it’s always discrimination.  And general standards must be lowered in order to achieve “diversity and equality”.  Will there ever come a time when everyone will realize that this social experiment just can not and will not work?

  • Sincerely Concerned

     “Applicants, even those not hired, generally perceive them as fair. This
    perception reduces the possibility of legal complaints.”

    BULLHOCKEYS.  No one who knows they can whine and cheat their way into a job due to their color or even their gender will find these tests fair.  Where in the world did they get their data?

    “Employers have used ability tests since the 1920’s and these have been
    quite effective and efficient. However for most of that time, the legal
    environment of business and the diversity of the labor pool have been
    very different than they are now. These trends make it necessary for
    each organization to carefully consider what its selection program
    should be and to carefully think about the diversity, legal, and
    societal implications of its portfolio of hiring practices.”

    What is necessary is that organizations hire who can do the job, regardless of color.  They use three different words here to describe the same people and circumstance: diversity, legal, and societal.  Come on, we know what they really mean is MINORITY.

  • MekongDelta69

    However, employers must consider the benefits of having a highly diverse workforce.

    THIS is the ONLY ‘benefit'[sic]:
    …and a buttress to reduce the probability of discrimination suits and negative media attention.

    Employers can put in place selection portfolios that achieve both of the following objectives: strong hiring practices and diversity goals.

    Nope – You can have one or the other. Not both.

  • HadEnough

    “The DOL held that these tests had adverse impact on Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans.”

    Nice to see the Asians doing worse than us, for a change.

    • The__Bobster

      This will give them more time to play with their food.

      Philadelphia Man Accused Of Abusing Kittens At His Logan Restaurant
      July 27, 2012 11:06 PM

      PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A shocking case of animal cruelty – A local man was arrested after he was caught on tape torturing kittens.

      What the kittens had to endure, according to officials, was not only cruel but criminal and authorities say they will make sure 25-year-old Yu Zhen Chen pays for his crime.

      George Bengal, SPCA Director of Law Enforcement said, “Every time I say this is the worst case I’ve seen, something always comes along that’s worse.”

      http://cbsphilly.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/yu-zhen-chen.jpg

      • mikejones91

        Any animal cruelty case (at least in the Delaware Valley) is ALWAYS done by non-whites. Unless its hoarding animals, then its US.

  • ncpride

    Let me sum up this article in very simple terms….
     
    To all Business owners and Corporations,
     
    With the continued browning of America, you are now dealing with a less intelligent, less educated population, so you will either lower your standards and hope the Whites you have can make up for the incompetence of ‘diversity’, or go out of business due to frivolous lawsuits. It’s up to you. Those are your choices.

  • The correct answer in to COMPLETELY reject this racial spoils systems and demand freedom of association and the right to hire whoever a company pleases for whatever reason.

    That is freedom of association and the company’s business.

    If whites are better—they must be discriminated against,  If whites are inferior– they must be discriminated against.  There is NO situation where envy against whites can be assuage except by trying to destroy white identity.

    Hence this–which is really genocide–because it denies whites the right to freedom of association, to nations, to protect their racial interests, to choose for themselves their futures.

    Pure genocide dressed up in demands for equality and ‘anti-racism’.  What it actually represents if envy and hatred. 

    ENOUGH.

    • The__Bobster

      Years ago, employers knew that Bantus were worth less…..and paid them accordingly. Interestingly enough, they had an unemployment rate lower than ours. This would indicate that they were underpaid then and overpaid now.

  • Uncle Ruckus

    PERSONAL OBSERVATION:

    A lot of people think whites “lost” when the Yankees passed the 14th Amendment.  Others think “naah . . . it was Brown v Board Of Education.

    Nope.  It was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which made segregation in schools, “workplace and facilities serving the general public” illegal.

    In other words, restaurant owners HAD to serve negroes and HAD to let them sit wherever the heck they wanted to. 

    This was a direct slap in the face to the thousands of men who defended this country in WW 2, opened a small business and now had the Feds telling them how to run it.  The small restaurant, especially in the South, was the cornerstone of small-town social life.  It was a gathering place for humans.

    I think the South began to die when that ended.

    And by the way . . . if you look at who voted how, it was once again the Yankees in congress who shoved this down our throat.  Southern Dems and Reps stood against this evil hatched by that monstrous race traitor – L.B.J.

  • “The DOL held that these tests had adverse impact on Asians”???

    “More importantly, the DOL cited a lack of evidence from the company to prove these ability tests related to job performance.”

    I find it difficult to believe the company couldn’t prove these tests were integral to job performance.

    It is the goal of the multiCULTural movement to do away with all objective standards. What we will be left with is incompetence and the lowest common denominator.

  • If we read these two statements:

    1) The dilemma is that renowned psychologists such as Frank Schmidt, John
    Hunter, and Philip Bobko have shown that ability tests, usually written
    tests that measure some form of knowledge, are exceptional predictors of
    job performance. Thus, as a tool for determining applicants’
    suitability for jobs, they are among the best in predicting applicants’
    future job performance.

    2) …employers that use these tests are less likely to hire non-Caucasians.

    … then our conclusion would be that Caucasians tend to make better employees. Unless the authors of this article are mentally challenged, then surely they can see this. I think they are writing in code – a code that only those with I.Q.’s over 100 or so can understand.

    http://www.jewamongyou.wordpress.com

    • I’m not sure if they want us to draw our own conclusion or they don’t want to state the obvious clearly and unambiguously lest their definitive exclamation would brand them a  ‘racist’ for life.

  •  Diversity in its workforce can improve an organization’s access to labor
    pools, its viewpoints on how to market to diverse consumer segments, a
    positive impact on public perceptions of the organization, an
    enhancement of the organization’s brand as an open employer and
    marketer, and a buttress to reduce the probability of discrimination
    suits and negative media attention.

    Propaganda and threats.  It’s all they have.

  • toldev

    With this decision, food safety in America goes down another notch.

    The reason why some in the food industry do not want to hire minorities is due to the poor personal hygiene of those minorities. Poor personal hygiene in the food industry usually results in outbreaks of food borne illness and lawsuits.

    Every few months now you hear about some new E.coli out break in the news. But the news never gets specific as to what caused the outbreak: Some brown person took a crap and didn’t bother to wash his hands before he handled the food.

    • The__Bobster

      http://www.poconorecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120728/NEWS90/120729793/-1/NEWS

      Contamination feared, Wegmans recalls products with onions sold in Allentown
      By Frank Warner
      The Morning Call, Allentown
      July 28, 2012

      Wegmans Food Markets on Friday recalled prepared foods that may contain contaminated chopped or diced white onions sold recently at three Wegmans stores, including the one in Allentown.

      Among the recalled onion products are Wegmans’ Southwest chilled stew with red and white beans, Wegmans Veggie Pizzas, Wingless Buffalo blue cheese dip and Crab-Pepper Jack dip sold between July 19 and Thursday.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in the very young, the elderly and those who have weakened immune systems.

  • The__Bobster
  • The__Bobster

    http://www.terrierman.com/ratfood.htm

    A Rat in My Soup:  
    Looking for the best-tasting rodent in town.
    By: Peter Hessler
    _________

    “Do you want a big rat or a small rat?” the waitress asked.

    I was getting used to making difficult decisions in Luogang, a small village in southern China’s Guangdong Province. I’d come here on a whim, having heard that Luogang had a famous restaurant that specialized in the preparation of rats. Upon arrival, however, I discovered that there were two celebrated restaurants-the Highest Ranking Wild Flavor Restaurant and the New Eight Sceneries Wild Flavor Food City. They were next door to each other, and they had virtually identical bamboo-and-wood decors. Moreover, their owners were both named Zhong-but, then, everybody in Luogang seemed to be named Zhong. The two Zhongs were not related, and competition between them was keen. As a foreign journalist, I’d been cajoled to such an extent that, in an effort to please both Zhongs, I agreed to eat two lunches, one at each restaurant.

    The waitress at the Highest Ranking Wild Flavor Restaurant, who was also named Zhong (in Chinese, it means “bell”), asked again, “Do you want a big rat or a small rat?”

  • At the risk of appearing to be stupid, I’m going to have to ask you for the answer to the “what do you do” question.

    Since I don’t know the skill of the workers needed and I don’t know how critical the work is, in the real world, there could be different correct answers for different businesses and circumstances.

    Since we’re talking about a department, there are other departments with other workers. In this case, the answer I would pick would be “C”; “request workers from other departments”.

    However, suppose the work was highly skilled such as rocket scientists. The only other department consisted of janitorial workers. Could you expect janitors to do the work of rocket scientists?

    The question states “Your department cannot function unless at least 17 people show up for work”.

    I have worked in service businesses where bodies are almost critical to a functioning operation. Living in Buffalo, New York, we do have snow emergencies where people can’t get to work because one area of town is literally shut down because of snow. This happened to me a couple years ago. My neighborhood became a “no driving zone” because cars were  snowed in and only plows could move through and clear the snow. While my area of the city was snowed in, other parts of the city were untouched by snow.

    While the statement says  “Your department cannot function unless at least 17 people show up for work”, in this case, the business was forced to  “Try to do the work as best you can.”

    Also, how critical is it that the work be done in a timely fashion? If it wasn’t critical or there was no time pressure, then “B” “Close up and tell everybody to go home” is a plausable answer. Again, with snow emergencies and so few people showed up, I have worked in businesses where everyone just went home.

    I’m going to stick with “C” but without knowing the nature of the work, the skill level of the workers, or how critical it is to complete the work, it seems to me, in the real world, it could be any of the three answers.

    If I don’t over think the question, I would pick “C”. But in the real world, and from my experience, I have experienced both “A” and “B”.

  • JohnEngelman

    Years ago I was hired for a one year position as a contract computer programmer for a prestigious high tech company. A contract programmer gets paid more by the hour, but receives no benefits, and no job security. About ten contract programmers were hired for a new software project. One person was hired for a permanent position. He was the only black person who was hired. 
     
    His cubicle was right next to the main entrance so that anyone walking in could see that the company practiced inclusion. The problem was that he was seldom in his cubicle working. He preferred to flirt with the women. During the year I learned that he never finished a single assignment. He would be put on one project. When it was discovered that he was not making any progress he was put on another project. 
     
    At the end of the year all of us contract programmers had to look for another job. A number of permanent programmers were laid off. The black guy kept his job. His “job” was to keep the company from being sued for racial discrimination. 

    • Preemptive PR.

    • ncpride

      Frustrating, isn’t it? My husband has an eerily similar story in the same line of work, except he has to deal with ‘diversity’ every day because both are permanent employees. It is common knowledge the only reason ‘diversity’ is still employed is to avoid lawsuits, because other than that, he is completely useless I’m told.

      • JohnEngelman

        In my next job I worked with a black computer programmer who did earn his salary. I made a point of mentoring him, because I enjoy doing that. He told my boss about my assistance. My boss told me, “It is really my responsibility to do that, but I do not always have the time. You make my job a whole lot easier.”