A new ADA realm to watch?

Working in an organization that serves individuals with developmental disabilities gives me some different perspectives on workplace issues than some of my esteemed HR colleagues.  That is a good thing and brings about some substantive conversation about diversity and identifying the true ability of people in the workplace.  At other times, this dual nature brings itself about in other ways.  An alert I received today places me squarely in the middle.  The subject is workplace personality testing.  Here is the alert:

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is investigating employers’ use of personality tests to screen job applicants as part of applications for employment and the broader hiring process. These tests may unfairly screen out qualified Autistic applicants and those with other hidden disabilities through the use of subjective questions unrelated to job performance.
If you live in the United States and have recently been turned down for a job that used personality tests as part of the application process, please contact (name removed by author) at (e-mail removed by author) and (name removed by author) at (e-mail removed by author).  Please include the name of the employer, the approximate date on which you applied for the job, and any additional information you feel may be relevant.

Now I believe that there are times that the use of personality tests as part of the hiring process are good and provide useful and relevant information to the hiring organization.  I also see the potential drawbacks for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities when it comes to their applicability.  The alert above went out to many people associated with the field and I anticipate that the e-mail boxes of the two people above are being filled as people grasp for any reason that they did not get a job. 

Back in my younger days, I applied for a position with an employer who used a series of personality tests.  Everything was going well until I took the third one.  Suddenly, I was persona non-grata and all contact stopped. 

Like Steve Martin, maybe I was misunderstood?!?!

Never even received the thanks but no thanks letter.  I just assumed that the test showed that I was a jerk and they were afraid I may “do something” if they told me so.  That process and the way it was handled by the company turned me off to the use of personality tests for hiring.  Until…

I later had the chance to use an assessment that measured aptitude and some elements of personality.  I was pleased with the results and they helped us in the hiring of select positions within the company.  There was still great care used and the test was never the sole deciding factor (even though hiring managers would try!) and as these positions filled and became stable we stopped using the test and focused on the behavioral characteristics.  Thankfully, those positions became among the most stable we had.

So, the alert above from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network should serve as a caution to those using testing as part of your hiring process.  Be sure you can justify the questions and their relevancy to the jobs for which you are hiring.  The new amendments to the ADA are broad enough that just about everyone could find a way to qualify for the act’s protections.


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