High unemployment rates have created an influx of job seekers, creating larger pools of applicants for Los Angeles employers to wade through. In response, some employers are using personality tests to eliminate applicants. However, this practice does have some workers wondering whether this makes it easier for employers to discriminate against applicants without any repercussions.

One job applicant at a supermarket chain applied to work as a cashier, bagger and stocker. She has since filed a disability discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission because she wasn’t hired. The supermarket said it did not hire the woman because she only scored a 40 percent on a Customer Service Assessment (CSA), which categorized her as less likely to “listen carefully, understand and remember.” But the woman also has hearing and speech impairments.

This case, as well as others, has brought the issue of pre-employment personality testing under speculation.

A spokesperson for the EEOC said personality tests could lead to more discrimination in the workplace if some people are treated differently as a result of the tests. For example, only giving personality tests to applicants of one race or using a test that screens out members of a particular religion would be discriminatory.

Additionally, job applicants with disabilities are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If a personality test measures one’s physical or mental impairments or health, it can only legally be administered after a job offer is made.

With the consideration of possible discrimination being a factor, do the advantages of administering personality tests outweigh the risks for employers? Legal experts seem to agree they do not.

Some employment law attorneys advise employers to not rely on personality tests when hiring, and a professor of law in Minnesota noted that such tests don’t evaluate things that are related to the specific jobs people are applying for. Even the popular Myers-Briggs test doesn’t necessarily provide accurate results regarding how well someone will perform at a job, according to the professor. Although some employers claim personality tests may have some value, others could argue that these tests do not help employers make better decisions when hiring.

Source: ABC News, “Woman Sues Over Personality Test Job Rejection,” Abby Ellin, Oct. 1, 2012

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