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Personality tests may have discriminatory result

A few weeks ago we wrote about the growing popularity of using statistics to select employees. Many companies are beginning to look to certain lifestyle factors such as how often someone changes residences. Increasingly, they are also looking to personality traits to determine whether someone might be successful in a given job.

These types of tests look at whether someone is outgoing, if they are good listeners, and other traits that employers may select that they believe will indicate success in the job. And while the test may be accurate in some respects, like the statistical models, these methods may be unintentionally discriminating against certain groups of candidates.

Some personality tests are considered medical examinations, which are governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under that law, a test like the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory can only be given after a job offer has been made. Employers cannot use the tests to screen out potential hires or withdraw an offer because of a medical impairment unless it means that the employee would be unable to perform the job duties. In the case of a personality test it would be highly difficult to successfully make that argument.

Earlier this year, a cheese maker agreed to refund a group of 253 African-American and Hispanic applicants who had not gotten a job after failing a personality test. The applicants will receive back pay to compensate them for the time that they would have been working at the company, which is also a government contractor.

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

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