In trio of lawsuits alleging gender bias, EEOC goes after physical ability qualifications
- In three lawsuits announced Aug. 2, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) took aim at three different employers, alleging that their employment practices amount to gender discrimination.
- Likely the largest of the three suits, a complaint filed against CSX Transportation, Inc., says the company required applicants to submit to strength tests that screened out women. In another suit, the commission says a parking management company refused to hire a female applicant for a valet position because of the “physicality of the job." A third alleges that another company just refused to hire women as dockworkers and loaders.
- All three suits seek back pay and compensatory damages and at least two request punitive damages.
Employers are generally free to require that employees meet certain physical qualifications, if those standards are job-related and consistent with business necessary. However, if a different test would be just as effective at evaluating an applicant but have less of an adverse impact on protected groups, employers must adopt the alternative test, EEOC says.
The commission also has warned that if an employer retains a third-party to conduct tests, the employer is still responsible for ensuring that the screenings comply with federal law.
And while the impending republican majority at EEOC could potentially result in toned down enforcement efforts in the coming months, that’s not the message the commission is sending right now. In a press release announcing the CSX suit, a district director warned that “EEOC will take vigorous action if an employer’s selection procedure has an adverse impact on women or members of any other demographic group.”
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