Employment Testing Studies show that the average hiring mistake costs a company ranges between $17, 000 and $20, 000 (Practice Magazine, 2003). With this expense, companies need to be selective and careful when going through the hiring process. To do this, many companies have turned to employment testing. Most tests fall into two categories: eligibility and ineligibility testing. Eligibility testing may include skill, language, and physical testing. Ineligibility testing may include drug and alcohol, polygraph, integrity and personality tests.
Testing is not exclusive to pre-employment; employers also test employees. In either case, employers must be careful not to violate the applicant or the employee's civil rights. There are a few laws that protect against testing. The U. S.
Constitution protects under: the 4 th Amendment that protects against unreasonable search and seizure, the 5 th Amendment that protects against self-incrimination, and the 14 th Amendment that protects against due process. In 1978, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) developed the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures that determines the proper use and validation of tests (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 1998). Also, if the employer is not careful, discrimination can also occur when testing and this is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Before conducting eligibility tests, the employer should perform a job analysis to identify what specific qualifications are needed to perform a certain job.
The employer must be certain that they are testing for specific skills and abilities that are required to do the task. They must be careful not to discriminate against members of a protected class. A skills test is one form of eligibility testing. An employer may have an accounting clerk position that requires 10 key by touch, Excel knowledge, and simple math skills. In this case, the employer could administer a test on these specific functions. However, the employer cannot require that the applicant or employee type 50 words per minute, unless they can prove that it is required in an accounting clerk position.
Language testing is another skills test. Lets say an employer has a front office position open and is located in a Latino dominated community. They could require that the person be bilingual. Although, the employer would have to prove that it is a necessity because this could cause a disparate impact on a protected class. Physical testing is another form of eligibility testing. This type of testing would be performed if the job had specific physical needs.
However, employers are no longer allowed to administer physical fitness tests such as sit-ups, pull-ups or running. The test must be a simulation of the job function. Such as a stocker might have to be able to lift and move packages up to 75 pounds. The test could be that the applicant performs this specific activity. Although, the applicant cannot be tested on how fast he / she can run a mile. Ineligibility testing is used to eliminate applicants or employees whether they have the skills or not.
This type of testing is used to reduce workplace injuries and crimes, and to predict employee performance. A few ineligibility tests used are drug and alcohol, polygraph, and integrity and personality tests. Although the laws vary in regard to how the tests are administered, all employers need to be careful not to discriminate or invade anyone's privacy. It is recommended that the employer always investigate what state and federal laws are applicable in their location.
According to the textbook, Employment Law for Business, substance abuse in the workplace cost companies about $40. 2 billion annually (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 1998). This is due to high turnover rates, accidents, and poor productivity. In 1988, President George Bush enacted the Drug-Free Workplace Act. While this Act only affects federal employees, the private sector found it a viable employer model and followed suit. Urinalysis and hair follicle testing are the two most common forms of testing.
Urinalysis is when a urine sample is tested with chemicals to determine substance use. This form of testing can be invading and less accurate. It tends to pick up legal drugs in the urine. Hair follicle testing is less invasive and can pick up abuse chronologically dating years back. Drug and alcohol testing can be given to weed out unwanted applicants. They are also administered to employees to assure a drug free workplace.
In any case, employers need to be careful not to invade anyone's privacy or break any laws. Polygraph testing is another form of ineligibility tests. This test was given to determine honesty levels of applicants and employees. Today, employees are protected through the Employee Polygraph Protection Act that limits employers on how they use this test.
The employer cannot administer the test at random and cannot discharge, discipline or discriminate because of the findings. However, if the employer has probable cause to believe an employee is involved in theft, embezzlement, etc. it can be used. Written integrity and personality test has taken place of most polygraph testing. This type of testing is administered to determine honesty, integrity, propensity to steal, attitudes, and leadership skills. Like in polygraph testing, these written tests have been questioned on their validation.
However, it has been studied and the written tests tend not to adversely impact any protected group. Employers need to remember to avoid discrimination and not to break any laws. So you have tested the employment candidates or currently employed employee. You know the procedures for both eligibility testing and ineligible testing, now lets create a scenario. An employee arrives at work and is clearly under suspicion of a physical or mental impairing drug or alcohol.
You, the manager, are aware of his or her state but decide to let the employee work until the end of the day. Was this the correct course of action to take? When driving an automobile, is it acceptable to drive under the influence? The obvious answer is no. However, what are some of the risks that an employer takes by allowing an employee to work while knowing that he or she is under reasonable suspicion of being under the influence? What risks does an employer run into when approaching such an employee when under the influence? The following focuses on some of the risks involved when dealing with or not dealing with the individual in question. Risks - violence An employee confronted when under a physical impairing or mental impairing drug or alcohol may react in a violent manner. To ensure that the matter does not get out-of-hand, allow a fellow manager or security personnel to join you when confronting the employee. In doing so, discuss your findings with the employee in private.
Risks - accidents can and will happen The employer has a lot at stake when it comes to an accident in the workplace. Pension plans, payroll, medical costs, insurance premiums, and the employment of countless workers, who in-turn, rely on income for their family's survival, and are all a part of the company and employee's assets. In short, the company is an imperative survival tool for many lives. The company then, must be responsible for handling an employee under the influence quickly and justly so that they ensure themselves from any future accidents. The employee should not be allowed to clock in to start his or her workday.
If he or she does clock in, the risks the employer and the employees take are staggering. The individual may be a forklift driver. As they start on their assignment of the day, they forget to leave the forks on the ground as they drive down the warehouse floor. Instead, the forklift driver raises the forks about three feet off of the ground. They start to turn a corner and boom; a fellow employee is walking around the corner.
Two things the intoxicated driver forgot to do; one was to lower the forks down to just about an inch off the floor so that a fellow employee is not struck by the forks; two was they did not stop and honk their horn before turning onto a blind aisle way. The lack of attention on the job due to being under the influence just created the potential for a serious accident in which the employer would have been held accountable for. This kind of behavior puts both the employer and the employee at risk. Risk - following footsteps When such acts of reasonable suspicion occur, condoning such behavior or looking the other way only promotes fellow employees to follow by their fellow employee's behavior. It sparks a chain reaction throughout the working environment entailing a chain of [unwanted accidents]. There are many risks associated by allowing an employee under the influence to continue or start their day's work.
Looking the other way only promotes risks that are too costly for one company to handle. If looking the other way is the answer, a second look at your own morals, ethics, and values as a manager or employer is in dire need. If someone close to you was an honest, hard working employee and was critically injured on the job by a fellow employee under the influence, would you not be filled with sadness, anger, or revenge? Reasonable suspicion An employer should have contained in their company policies, standard procedures for managers to take when they feel they have encountered an employee that they feel could be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Thorough training should be administered among the management group to ensure that proper steps are taken when dealing with another employee that is suspected to be under the influence.
Managers are responsible for taking appropriate action whenever an employee's observed behavior or job performance raises any question about the employee's physical condition and fitness to perform the job safely. If an employee is suspected of being under the influence the manager should recognize the safety impact that the employee could have to himself and other employees. The manager needs to immediately move the employee to a job that is not a safety risk. An example would to have the employee accompany you to a location away from other employees so there is some privacy for your observation and conversation.
At this point, the manager should find another supervisor or manager and have them observe the employee's behavior. Note, the second manager should not be given any insight as to what you suspect - you do not want to taint their observation. The observation should reflect on the employee's physical condition, speech, behavior, eyes, breath odor, and performance of job duties. Both managers should independently complete an observation of the employee. Both managers should then briefly meet and compare their observations. If the consensus is that the employee is under the influence, the employee should be taken to an administration office and given an opportunity to explain why they appear to be unfit to work.
The company substance abuse policy should be communicated to the employee. At no time should the employee be accused of using or being under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol! If it is still the general consensus is that the employee is under the influence the Human Resource Manager then should be contacted and any further action would become their responsibility. This would include any arrangements for testing for the presence of drugs and / or alcohol intoxication. If the employee refuses to answer any questions or refuses to accompany you to an administrative office location, the employee should be advised that their refusal would be regarded as an insubordinate act that may be subject to discipline and possible termination. At no time should the manager try to restrain or make any physical contact with the employee. The Human Resource manager should provide transportation for the employee to the testing site.
The employee should never be allowed to drive him or herself anywhere at this point. If the employee refuses and wants to leave on their own accord the employee should be informed that the local authorities would be informed. Once at the testing site the employee will need to sign a release form authorizing the testing for drugs or alcohol in their system. Generally there will be two tests taken: urine testing and an alcohol breath test. The urine analysis takes up to 48 hours for the results of the test, but the breath analysis is immediate. If the employee tests positive they should have transportation provided for them to go home.
The question that HR Managers need to ask at this point is the employee able to perform their job safely or should they be temporarily be suspended pending the results of the urinalysis. It is advisable to send them home pending the test results. What are the employer's responsibilities if the employee tests positive for illegal drugs or alcohol? This may vary from state-to-state, or from employer-to-employer. Most major company's now provide an Employee Assistance Program for their employees where problems relating to illegal drug use and alcoholism can be addressed.
As a general policy, larger company's want to help their employees that have these type of personal issues, but if they test positive on a second or follow-up test they most likely can be expected to be terminated. Most employment testing is classified as two types: eligibility and ineligibility, and can be administered to pre-employment candidates and current employees. The testing needs to be applicable to the specifics of the related job and should never compromise the civil rights of any protected class. There are moral and ethical values as to how the tests are administered, and failure by an employer to recognize this may lead to possible litigation. Employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace for their employees and can limit the accidents in the workplace by utilizing an illegal drug and alcohol analysis test. If an employer has reasonable suspicion that an employee is under the influence when they report to work, the employer needs to react immediately to ensure the safety of the suspected employee as well as all other employees.
REFERENCES Reduce Turnovers. (2003). Practice Magazine. Retrieved May 5, 2003 from the World Wide Web at: web > Bennett-Alexander, D. & Pincus, L. (1998).
Employment Law for Business (2 nd). New York: McGraw Hill.