Workplace Evaluations: Skills, Aptitude, Psychological and Lie Detector Tests
Ideally, every job applicant should be fully tested and evaluated before being hired for any position. However, state and federal laws impose certain restraints on the specific types of tests that can be given to job seekers. While skills tests are usually the most critical and widely accepted exams, care must be taken to administer them fairly and accurately.
Here’s a general overview of the types of job applicant rights you must respect while using any of the types of tests referenced above. As will be referenced below, all tests must be given in full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Skills and aptitude tests – evaluating clerical, computer software and other job skills
A general rule of thumb that can guide you about many tests is that they must be specific to the types of skills that a job requires on a regular basis. Therefore, it’s usually fine to find out how fast a potential clerical employee can type or how much someone knows about repairing and maintaining computer systems if you’re hiring a computer help desk employee.
While you can usually test most the job skills of the disabled, you may need to make some accommodations in how you administer such tests. Cornell University’s publication entitled, “Pre-Employment Testing and the ADA” is well worth reviewing to gain a better understanding of job testing requirements. Just keep in mind that certain timed tests may need to provide slightly longer completion times and accommodations may need to be extended to applicants who’ve made their special testing needs known to you, in advance.
Although general aptitude tests can still be given using multiple choice tests, great care must be taken to avoid formats that may mainly reward test-taking skills over a job candidate’s ability to properly handle future job tasks. Short-answer questions based on factual job topics may provide greater insights into a person’s capabilities.
Psychological testing of job applicants
Although some employers still place great value on these types of tests, they are no longer highly favored. Two of the chief reasons that employers are thinking twice about administering these types of tests is that they can sometimes illegally discriminate against certain job applicants or invade their privacy regarding their moral and religious beliefs.
Employers should only administer psychological profile tests that have been scientifically validated, indicating direct correlations with a worker’s job performance. Another potential problem with psychological testing is that the ADA does not allow medically oriented tests to be administered to applicants who are disabled -- if it might help discern their disabilities.
In certain situations, the ADA may also require you to revise a psychological or other test if an applicant claims it tests skills related to his/her disability (such as hearing capacity) – that are not regularly required for the job.
Lie detector or “honesty” tests for job applicants and employees
In general, the federal Employee Polygraph Protection Act – with only limited exceptions – prevents employers from requiring job applicants or employees to undergo lie detector tests. While certain types of unique applicants or employees may have to take such tests – including those wanting to provide armored security services (or dispense pharmaceuticals) – restrictions must still be honored as to how such tests are administered and evaluated.
Most of the time, in the few instances when a larger employer might want to administer this type of test, it’s normally only used when there’s reasonable suspicion that an employee may have embezzled from the company or committed other workplace theft.
At present, experts on this topic indicate that it’s nearly always best to restrict the use of any type of “honesty” test to situations where an employee may need to handle cash.
Always remember that in order to protect your company or business from any possible future claims of discrimination, you must make sure that all job applicants take the required tests at the same basic time in the hiring process.
Every employer may want to create a copy of this EEOC document designed to help determine the best job candidates -- while fully complying with all federal laws.
Please feel free to contact one of our Murray Lobb lawyers if you need legal advice about administering specific tests to any of your job applicants or employees. We also remain available to discuss any other legal concerns you may have – and can readily draft a wide range of contracts and other documents you may need while conducting daily transactions with your business customers and other parties.