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How to Tell if Your Assessment is EEOC Compliant

By Emily Lambert | June 13, 2019
How to Tell if Your Assessment is EEOC Compliant

For an assessment to support diversity & inclusion in your organization (not to mention, in order for it to be legal to use in the U.S.), it must be compliant with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  

The EEOC is responsible for “enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.” 

Download Buying a Talent Assessment That Supports Diversity and Inclusion in Your OrganizationTalent assessments have the capability to quantify people’s recurring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior by measuring dimensions such as problem-solving ability, social intelligence, and personality. HR & Talent teams are recognizing the benefits that assessments can bring in driving diversity & inclusion (D&I) in their organizations. After all, items on a resume – like where someone went to school or if they had the privilege to complete prestigious unpaid internships – are intrinsically linked to class, race, and gender. Understanding someone’s unique talents (like adaptability, innovation, and communication) offers a more objective and less biased look into someone's potential for success within a role. 

However, not all assessments are created equal. Many assessment providers don’t have significant proof that they can reduce bias in your talent acquisition and talent management processes. In fact, some might even make matters worse. To ensure the talent assessment you leverage is D&I-friendly and legal to use, it must be EEOC compliant. If determining whether your assessment complies with EEOC feels like a daunting task, don’t worry – we've got you covered with the 3 questions you need to ask.  

To ensure your talent assessment is D&I-friendly and legal to use, it must be EEOC compliant.

Has the Assessment Proven No Discrimination Against Race, Color, Religion, Sex, or Nationality?  

When buying an assessment that’s D&I-friendly, this should be one of the first questions you ask. For an assessment to be EEOC-compliant, it needs to be written so that someone with a ninth-grade reading level can understand it. Additionally, there should be no math questions, as these can discriminate against education level or national origin if English isn’t someone's first language. Replacing math questions with a series of puzzles (like Raven’s Progressive Matrices) can test problem-solving while also eliminating the risk of discrimination. 

For a more detailed list of questions to ask to determine that your assessment accounts for varying types of ability, download our essential checklist all about buying an assessment that supports D&I. 

Before you purchase a talent assessment, always ask for the technical manual. This is a handy document that all assessment vendors should provide, as it outlines important research around the assessment’s validity and whether there is evidence to show an adverse impact on protected groups of people.  

Can the Assessment Prove Job Relatedness? 

EEOC requires job assessments to prove “business necessity” and “job relatedness” of the test. That’s why a test like Myers-Briggs (MBTI) although fun and interesting for self-reflection – is illegal to use in an employment context. When MBTI is used to screen job candidates, the hiring team has to arbitrarily prioritize traits based on intuition. The hiring team may believe that a salesperson needs to be extraverted, and therefore exclude all candidates who do not receive an “E” from the MBTI assessment. Yet, our own research has found that extraversion is not always important for sales roles. The result is unjustified bias towards introverted people. 

Demonstrating the job-relatedness of a trait measured in an assessment is crucial to properly using the tool and ensuring its defensibility. A tried and true method for demonstrating job-relatedness is conducting a job analysis to link traits measured by the assessment to behaviors required for the job.  

Was the Assessment Professionally Developed? 

EEOC requires that an assessment must be developed professionally. Ensuring that your talent assessment was developed by Industrial/Organizational Psychologists is one way to guarantee compliance with this EEOC requirement.  

Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology is the study of human behavior in the workplace. I/O Psychologists contribute to an organization’s success by improving performance, motivation, team effectiveness, job satisfaction, innovation, occupational health and well-being, and more. I/O Psychologists improve hiring, training, and management by studying worker behavior, evaluating companies, and conducting leadership training. I/O Psychology is one of the 15 recognized specialties in professional psychology in the United States. 

I/O Psychology started as a practice during WWII, when lives were literally on the line. Scientists needed to develop selection methods that they knew would work to select officers and pilots, and place them into roles that were the best fit for their skills. 50+ years later, researchers in the I/O Psychology field continue to gather evidence that demonstrates which tools are the best predictors of performance. 

In Summary 

For your assessment to be EEOC compliant, make sure that it: 

  • Does not discriminate against race, color, religion, sex, or nationality 
  • Can prove job relatedness 
  • Was developed by professionals  

Implementing an assessment that drives diversity & inclusion in your organization, however, goes beyond basic legal compliance. Things like finding assessments that support multiple languages and identifying AI that mitigates bias also need to be considered. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with our essential checklist, Buying a Talent Assessment That Supports Diversity & Inclusion in Your Organization.” We lay out 12 questions you need to ask to champion D&I in your assessment purchase.

We wish you all the best as you level up your diversity & inclusion efforts in your workplace with assessments!  

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