Post offer employment testing (POET) improves hiring quality for companies in many industries. But you cannot use just any test. And you cannot pick and choose who takes your test. Equal Opportunity laws dictate these things. You don’t want to run afoul of the law. In this article we look at the potential pitfalls of POET. We’ll also explain how you can avoid these potential problems.
POET Is an Excellent Investment
Post offer employment testing is a hiring tool. It helps reduce on-the-job injuries and workers’ comp claims. It ensures chosen candidates can handle the essential physical demands of the job. And that they can perform the tasks in a safe manner. Successful POET completion protects them, their fellow workers and your company. And that makes POET a smart hiring and management strategy.
Lisa Quast (@careerwomaninc) says companies can reap dramatic benefits from post offer employment testing. A well-designed POET program gives you unbiased baseline information about each employee. Because the data is measurable and the test can be reproduced, it is difficult to dispute the results. That makes the data valuable for:
Quast cautions you must pay close attention to compliance requirements. Otherwise, you could lose all these benefits to lawsuits. That can damage your company’s reputation as well as your bottom line.
So What Can Go Wrong?
The EEOC website offers a guide to Employment Tests and Selection Procedures. It lists nine different types of hiring-related tests employers may use. One category is physical ability tests such as POET. These measure “ability to perform a particular task or the strength of specific muscle groups, as well as strength and stamina in general.” You must give the same test to every candidate who receives an offer for a particular job.
The guide also outlines the laws governing which tests you can use and when. It is against the law to use post offer employment testing to discriminate against job applicants based on:
Tests are also illegal if they tend to exclude any of these protected groups. There are instances in which exclusion is legitimate. But you must be able to legally justify that test.
Consider This Cautionary Tale
A few years ago, the EEOC sued a company whose POET test excluded far more women than men for a particular job. The exclusion was based on results of a strength test. Before the company began using the test, 46% of their new hires were women. After implementing the test, that number dropped to 15%. The company claimed their test “looked like the job.” They also claimed that testing had reduced injuries.
The EEOC investigated and learned the test was not “like the job.” It was much more difficult. Further, the company’s injury rate started to drop two years before they began using the new test. EEOC officials suggested better training and job rotation were the real reasons for reduced injuries. They found the company to be in violation of Title VII.
You can find complete details about employment-related discrimination issues on the EEOC website.
Best Practices to Avoid Pitfalls
Quast cites three key issues you should understand before you implement POET:
Knowing the rules about POET allows you to be proactive in addressing potential problems.
Quast says if you administer your POET program correctly, you can achieve:
You can gain all that and reduce your legal risk “by ensuring test validity and reliability, by making sure tests do not cause disparate impact on minorities or protected groups, and by consistently applying tests to all candidates."
CriteriaCorp takes it a step further. They say POET “can actually augment legal defensibility by enhancing the objectivity of a company’s employee selection procedures.” That’s because federal regulations protect applicants from discriminatory hiring practices. “Organizations that implement testing programs in accordance with legal guidelines are therefore better prepared to defend these procedures in the unlikely event that a legal challenge to their hiring practices should ever arise.”
Understanding the pitfalls of POET allows you to avoid them. You can be confident your post offer employment testing program complies with all applicable laws. You can look forward to making better-informed hiring decisions. And that will bring all the cost and productivity benefits that come with a safer workplace.
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