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Integrity and Personality Tests

As employers’ use of polygraph tests have been restricted, they have turned to subjective tests purported to measure honesty or integrity through analysis of answers to numerous questions. They also look at handwriting and other nontraditional forms of employee selection to discover personality information. Although the validity of such tests in discovering useful information is at issue, they have not been shown to produce an adverse impact on any protected group.

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Basic intelligence tests are considered too blunt to determine specific employment-related results. Personality tests are allowed, provided they test relevant parts of the applicant’s personality.

Physical ability testing of applicants for very physical jobs are also under close scrutiny. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires testing of essential functioning. General tests of fitness—such as the ability to lift 100 pounds—are less likely to be appropriate.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

Businesses lose millions of dollars each year because of employee drug use. Employees who use drugs are less productive, the quality of their work product is suspect, and they can be a danger to themselves and others around them, especially if they are operating machinery, including automobiles. Proponents cite these facts in support of drug testing. Opponents to drug testing cite the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fourth Amendment protects an individual’s right to be secure in person, property, and effects.

In most situations, the employer must have a reasonable suspicion that the employee is using drugs. A reasonable suspicion exists when the employer can draw a reasonable inference from the facts and circumstances. The employer must document the circumstances in writing and the sources must be creditable.

The Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988 authorizes drug testing of federal employees and contractors and those employers receiving federal grant money. Provisions of the act include the following:

· the employer must publish in a conspicuous place that drug use is prohibited

· the employer must educate employees on the dangers of drug use and offer counseling and treatment programs

If a criminal conviction arises from a workplace abuse offense, the employer is required to administer an employment sanction or advise and direct the employee to an approved substance abuse treatment program.

The most common type of test is a urine test. It involves mixing urine with chemicals. Its limitations are that it:

· detects legal drugs but does not distinguish among different drugs

· does not show time or quantity of consumption

· can detect only one drug at a time

· is reliable for only one to three days

A more reliable test analyzes hair follicles. Considered less intrusive than the urine test, it is reliable for up to three months and shows time or quantity of consumption.

Employees addicted to and currently using drugs or alcohol are not covered by the ADA. If a worker is in or has completed a rehabilitation program, then the employee is covered.

Medical Testing

Many employers require pre-employment or post-offer medical tests to ensure that the applicant is physically fit for the position. An employer is prohibited from testing before a job offer to protect against discrimination based on disability. All employees within the same job category must be subject to the same medical examination; individual applicants cannot be singled out. And information from the examinations must be kept separate from other personnel-related information.

Tests for HIV and AIDS

These tests are considered inappropriate for two reasons. First, HIV is not transmitted through casual contact, so the legitimate business criterion is hard to meet. Second, testing does not determine the individual’s HIV status at the time of the test. In addition, the ADA prevents any action based on the information acquired.

Occupation Specific Regulations

When the government requires or encourages testing in the private sector, constitutional scrutiny applies. For example, the Department of Transportation requires testing of private-sector transportation employees in safety or security positions.

Ask Yourself

Review Questions

1. Why would an employer want to test prospective and current employees?

2. When is random drug testing permissible?

3. List the four criteria that a private employer must establish to be able to require a current employee to submit to a polygraph test.

4. Testing that ensures that potential employees are capable and qualified to perform job requirements is called:

a. criterion testing.

b. content testing.

c. eligibility testing.

d. race norming.

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