Weekly Availability Calendar

What would Susan B. Anthony have to say about pre-employment testing?


What would Susan B. Anthony have to say about pre-employment testing?
February 24, 2020, 3:20:02 AM EST   By Mike Russiello

Susan B. Anthony

2020 is the 200th anniversary of Susan B. Anthony's birth. Coincidentally, it is also the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in the United States.

Who is Susan B. Anthony, Again?

Though she did not live long enough to see the women's suffrage movement through to victory, Susan B. Anthony is widely credited as the driving force behind its success. For example, in 1872 she was arrested for voting in her hometown of Rochester, New York and she was eventually convicted in a widely publicised trial. After she refused to pay the fine, the judge overseeing her case announced that she would not be jailed, which effectively prevented her from taking her case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1878, more than 40 years before it would ultimately be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and later ratified, Anthony introduced the 19th Amendment to Congress.

However, Ms. Anthony did not limit her actions to Women's Suffrage. She was also active gainst slavery. In fact, she initiated a process that ultimately collected almost 400,000 signatures in support of abolition in 1863. She was also active in the Temperance movement, which aimed to curb the heavy consumption of alcohol. For instance, Anthony advocated for the right of a wife of an alcoholic to obtain a divorce.

Susan B. Anthony shaped our world. There's a reason she was chosen as the first female to grace a coin when the U.S. Mint issued the Susan B. Anthony dollar in 1979. If you would like to learn more about this incredible woman, please read her Wikipedia page at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_B._Anthony.

What would Ms. Anthony think of employment testing?

Since she was born in an age of shameless nepotism and other forms of discrimination in the workplace, we might think Ms. Anthony would view any selection tool that increases objectivity as a major step forward. Applying this logic, she would view work samples, reference checks, background checks, and pre-employment testing as equalizers in the fight against discrimination.

The same argument could be made of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), whose purpose is to interpret and enforce federal laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace. Surely any tool that increases objectivity will help remove unfair hiring practice. However, the EEOC has historically tended to view employment testing and other so-called 'objective' selection tools with suspicion. That's because these tools can be used to either fight or support unfair discrimination.

It's been nearly 70 years since Federal landmark anti-discrimination legislation was enacted. What we've learned during this time is that, while objective selection tools can in fact increase objectivity and fairness in hiring, they can also justify unfair practices when used inappropriately. What's worse, recruiters and hiring managers might not even be aware of their misuse.

For this reason, the EEOC has played an active role in promoting the appropriate use of employment tests while condemning and even prosecuting against inappropriate use. If she were alive today, Susan B. Anthony would probably be right alongside the EEOC in these efforts.

So, in spite of their potential for objectivity, I believe Ms. Anthony would urge caution in the use of pre-employment testing, due to its potential for abuse. She would advocate use only after employers verify that the tool would not unfairly discriminate against applicants. However, like a proven medical procedure, she would see its appropriate use as a major step forward.

What does this mean to us?

First, we must acknowledge a truly great person for her incredible achievements in shaping the world we live in today.

Second, it means that, as employers, we need to be careful. If a person who dedicated her entire life to achieving fairness and equality among all people use urge caution in applying employment testing to their hiring process, then we probably should too.

It is helpful to be reminded that employment testing technology can be both used and abused. This is particularly important as we enter an age where new methods for evaluating applicants appear almost daily. For example, virtually all employment testing companies now embed artificial intelligence and big data techniques into their offerings. They introduce nifty computer game-based assessments and neuro-science-driven evaluations. Like most new technologies, these tools must be applied with care.

Traditional data collection efforts to determine job-relatedness, reliability, and validity are needed to verify the efficacy of these new tools. Employers should take care to ask hard questions and insist that they only work with responsible providers.

What's the Take-Away?

  1. Ask your employment testing vendor for evidence of job-relatedness, reliability, and validity for any instrument you are using.
  2. Additionally, ask for evidence that an assessment practice does not unfairly discriminate based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, or disability.
  3. If you don't understand the evidence they present, find someone who does. Be especially careful when the tool you are considering applies a new technology or scientific theory.
  4. When working with a new technique or practice, reject generalizations and be prepared to perform a local validity study as soon as enough data is available. Your assessment vendor should be willing to assist you in this process - usually at no extra cost.

Follow HR Avatar
Follow Us Follow Us Follow Us

Follow Us
Follow Us LinkedIn LinkedIn
Follow Us Facebook Facebook
Follow Us Instagram
Subscribe to our Newsletter Tips & Updates
COPYRIGHT  ©  2024   HR Avatar, Inc.   |   Terms and Conditions   |   Privacy
Go to Home Page
This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn More