U.S. Offers Employment Screening ‘Best Practices’ to Prevent Bias

January 3, 2008

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) this month issued a fact sheet on the application of federal anti-discrimination laws to employer tests and other selection procedures to screen applicants for hire and employees for promotion.

The new technical assistance document is available on the agency’s web site.

The fact sheet describes common types of employer administered tests and selection procedures used in the workplace, including cognitive tests, personality tests, medical examinations, credit checks, and criminal background checks. The document also suggests “best practices” for employers to follow when using employment tests and other screening devices, and cites recent EEOC enforcement actions.

Discriminatory employment tests and selection procedures are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act — which are all enforced by the EEOC.

“This fact sheet will help employers voluntarily comply with EEOC-enforced statutes, as companies seek lawful and efficient ways to screen large numbers of applicants,” said Commission Chair Naomi C. Earp. “Tests and other selection tools can be an effective means of making employment decisions, as long as they are not used to screen out individuals in a discriminatory way.”

The EEOC said it has seen an increase in employment testing due in part to post 9-11 security concerns and issues related to workplace violence, safety, and liability. In addition, the large-scale adoption of online job applications has motivated employers to seek efficient ways to screen big applicant pools in a non-subjective way.

Charges of job discrimination filed with the EEOC raising issues of employment testing and exclusions based on criminal background checks, credit reports, and other screening tools have trended upward from 26 in Fiscal Year 2003 to 141 in FY 2006.

Source: EEOC

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