Lewis College of Human Sciences Professor of Psychology Scott Morris Collaborates With the EEOC to Address Issues With Employment Testing

Have you ever completed some type of test during the job application process? Organizations across all industries use these types of tests to identify ideal candidates, assess skills sets, and predict job performance. An area of interest to many industrial/organizational (I/O) psychologists is preventing discrimination in testing in hiring process.

Scott Morris The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a federal agency of the United States government that is responsible for evaluating claims of discrimination in the workplace, which includes the hiring process. One area for discrimination claims is focused on the differential outcomes of employment tests. “If you give a pre-employment test and it seems to favor one group over another, then the employer must prove what the test is evaluating is job-related,” Professor of Psychology Scott Morris explains.

In 1978, the EEOC published the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures to help employers avoid discrimination in the hiring process. Hiring practices, including testing and pre-screening procedures, have evolved over the years, but the guidelines have remained unchanged for 38 years. “The field has advanced quite a bit in methodology, but many experts in the field have found that the EEOC guidelines are out of date and not consistent with our current understanding of hiring and testing practices,” says Morris.

In response to these inconsistencies, the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology (SIOP) established the Contemporary Selection Practice Recommendations (CSR) Task Force in December 2012 to provide recommendations for work place discrimination issues of interest to both SIOP and EEOC. Morris and several other I/O psychologists from across the country were asked to participate in the task force to research and provide recommendations on several issues related to pre-employment screening.

Morris and his colleague Eric Dunleavy, chair of the task force, examined issues around data analysis in employment testing. How does one determine if there are disparities in the testing outcomes, especially when aggregating data? A large organization might have many branches all using a common hiring process. In such cases, when and how should data be combined across locations? They presented their recommendations to the EEOC in March 2016, and are currently in the final revision stages of publishing a white paper, A Primer on Data Aggregation in Adverse Impact Analysis. In addition to the work by Morris and Dunleavy, another white paper from the tasks force discusses how employers should define the pool of qualified applicants for a position.

During the meeting in March, the task force and EEOC representatives identified additional areas of interest that will be the focus of future task force research and exploration, including gender pay disparities, the use of credit and background checks, and the use of Big Data and algorithms to recommend job candidates.

More information about the task force and collaboration with EEOC is available on the SIOP website.