Personality assessments are a commonly used tool for employers to evaluate applicants during the hiring process. But recent settlements between the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and two large retail chains, CVS and Best Buy,suggest that companies using these tests should tread carefully.
That’s because, according to the EEOC, these tests may be racially or culturally biased, creating a pattern of discrimination against racial or ethnic minorities.
The EEOC did not accuse either company of intentionally discriminating. But it did observe that the tests the companies were using resulted in white applicants having dramatically different scores than non-white applicants.
In both cases, the tests being used hadn’t been statistically validated. In fact, the test-makers apparently warned against using them for hiring purposes.
But even statistically validated personality tests can create risk for employers if they disproportionately harm female or minority applicants. In those cases, the employer would need to show that there was a real business need to use the test that couldn’t be satisfied in any other nondiscriminatory way. That’s a tough burden to meet.
If your organization uses or is considering using personality tests, talk to an employment lawyer first about what you plan to do with them. Maybe they’re worth using to identify areas where you might want to better train your workforce. But if you’reusing them to make hiring decisions, you might be walking on thin ice.