Ford Motor Company and UAW Settle Class Action Race Discrimination Suit based on Biased Testing Program

January 7, 2008

Ford Motor Co., along with two related companies and a national union, will pay $1.6 million and provide other remedial relief to a class of nearly 700 African Americans to settle a major race discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC had charged in the litigation that a written test used by Ford and the UAW, Visteon and Automotive Components Holdings (ACH) to determine the eligibility of hourly employees for a skilled trades apprenticeship program had a disproportionately negative impact on African Americans.

The EEOC in its Press Release  touts two of its initiatives. First, the E-RACE Initiative (Eradicating Racism And Colorism from Employment), a national outreach, education, and enforcement campaign to raise public awareness about new and emerging race and color issues in the 21st century workplace. Further information about the E-RACE Initiative is available on the EEOC’s web site. Second, the EEOC issued a new Employment Testing Fact Sheet which cites the Ford case.   The Fact Sheet is not particularly illuminating from a legal or policy standpoint, but it does highlight the agency’s interest in employer testing practices.

There are general legal restrictions on the use of employment testing (whether pre or post employment) in addition to the general prohibitions on discrimination found in Title VII and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The Uniform Guidelines on Employee Section Procedures prohibit the use of a test or selection process that has an adverse impact on individuals in a protected class unless the test has criterion-related, content and construction validation studies. The validation studies must consist of empirical data demonstrating that the test is (1) predictive of performance of important elements of job performance; (2) contains content which tests important aspects of performance on the job; and (3) consists of procedures that assess identifiable characteristics that have been determined to be important to job performance.

We have previously blogged on the subject of Pre-employment testing at Employment Screening and Background Checks – Part III.