Are Personality Tests a Form of Discriminatory Hiring?

If you have recently applied for a job, you may have been asked to take a test as a part of your application. It is common for potential employers to require drug tests, academic tests, as well as background and credit checks. It is not illegal for a company to ask an applicant to submit to these tests, including personality tests. An employer has the right to make sure an applicant is the right fit for the job. But are any of these tests, especially personality tests, a way to discriminate against job applicants?

What are personality tests for?

Personality tests can be used to determine whether an applicant will be a good fit for a particular job, and therefore, a successful employee. The belief is that the test can help determine whether the applicant's personality will mesh well with the personalities of others within the company. The use of personality tests, in the last 10 years, has increased drastically. According to experts, approximately 60 to 70% of applicants in the United States are asked to take a personality test. In fact, employment personality tests are actually a $500 million a year industry, which is continuing to grow.

Do personality tests discriminate?

There are many civil rights groups that have begun taking issue with personality testing. One reason is that personality testing provides a convenient way for an employer, who desires to exclude certain groups of people, to do so legally. An employer cannot choose an applicant based on factors, such as race, age, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, pregnancy, disability, or other similar characteristics. However, deciding to hire or not hire someone, based on a personality profile or characteristic, is currently not illegal.

But some experts believe that personality tests may actually discriminate indirectly. For instance, a personality test that asks how long would your commute to work be, may discriminate against applicants from minority neighborhoods that may be located a long way from the office.

The EEOC's Investigation into Personality Testing

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is currently investigating these tests, and whether they tend to discriminate against people with disabilities. The commission's concern is that people with mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder or depression, are being treated unfairly in the testing process. Another concern is that, those who sell personality tests, claim that they do not have an impact on applicants because of their gender or race. However, there haven't been many studies regarding discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

Today's job market is still somewhat limited, especially in certain parts of the country and in particular industries. It can be difficult for an applicant to find a job, especially if they have a disability. Requiring an applicant to take a personality test, which could potentially discriminate further, may be considered illegal employment discrimination. We will be watching for changes in the law on this issue.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.

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