The simple answer is yes-testing in the workplace is legal. Tests are not only critical in hiring people with the skills and competence to do the work, but they also are used to decide a candidate’s aptitude for the work. It is a widely accepted practice rooted in both culture and law. So why do companies and people get into trouble ethically and legally when implementing various tests; whether pre-employment or post employment. The reason individuals find themselves in trouble in this area is that they do not take the time to understand the rules, and there are rules related to administering tests.
To prevent conditions that cause companies/individuals to violate the federal anti-discrimination laws in a way that intentionally or unintentionally results in discriminate based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, or age (40 or older), any testing program has to follow:
1. Objectivity – When testing is include in the process of evaluating prospective employees, they must be objective. The purpose should, to the extent practical, be reflected in the policies, procedures, and job descriptions governing the work in question. For example, physical ability requirements have to clearly correlate to the work performed, and not be used to avoid hiring someone who is physically capable but who may also have a disability, such as a prosthetic arm or leg.
2. Validity – Closely related to objectivity, the issue of validity is important from the perspective that the tests being administered must be a true reflection of the skill or ability that the work requires. The validity of a test is established if the test conducted for the purpose of assessing the individual is appropriate to the work, and the conduct of the test will produce results that can be measured.
3. Reliability – If a test cannot measure the qualities and capabilities in a consistent way that produces measurable results, such tests are not reliable and are not valid. Reliability means that the results can be repeated over a series of tests. The term often used is replicated. It is important that tests be designed for a specific job or series of tasks.
Tests are expensive to develop and implement, and so it is essential that care be taken to make sure any testing programs a company implements or modifies be examined using these criterion. The legal consequences of failing to do so are significant.