Company Discriminates Against African-American Employees With Unfair Intelligence Test

    Discrimination Expert WitnessThis talent acquisition and labor relations case concerns several African American employees who worked at a power-generating facility. The company had a long history of having a “segregated” workplace where most African American employees worked in the labor department and most Caucasian employees worked in the four other operating departments at the company. The company changed its policy to require that for employees in the labor department to be eligible to transfer out of their jobs into higher paying jobs in other departments, they must take a standardized intelligence test and obtain a certain grade on the test. The intelligence test disproportionally disqualified African American employees at a substantially higher rate than Caucasian employees. The company never made any finding that the intelligence test measured an employee’s ability to do their job. Many Caucasian employees who did not pass the intelligence test had been shown to perform their jobs at the company satisfactorily. The African American employees brought a class action suit against the company alleging that the requirement of having to take the test to be eligible for a transfer within the company was a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • Can a company rely on a standardized intelligence test in its employee transfer process if the test disproportionally affects African American employees more than Caucasian employees?

    Expert Witness Response

    Congress originally enacted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to protect African Americans from racially biased employment practices. This law prohibits employment practices that have a disparate impact on African Americans. To survive a challenge under Title VII, an employment practice must be shown by a company to have a demonstrative predictive effect on job performance if the practice excludes more African American employees than Caucasian employees. This means that the employment practice in question must measure the person for the job and not measure the person in the abstract. An employment practice, such as an intelligence test, that excludes African American employees or other racial minorities is generally prohibited unless the employer can show that it fulfills a genuine business need and is a valid measure of an employee’s ability to perform the job. In this case, the employees can probably bring a suit against the company for racial discrimination because the test created an unnecessary barrier to the transfer of African American employees within the company and had a disproportionally adverse impact on African American employees. Since the test could not be shown by the company to relate to job performance in this case, the company policy of requiring the test for employee transfers is probably a discriminatory practice under Title VII.

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