Can A Job Require You To Take A Personality Test?

If you're in the job-hunting process and continue to find yourself confounded with pre-employment personality testing, you're not alone -- more and more employers have turned to these types of tests to weed out potential problem employees, with 60 to 70 percent of applicants now expected to take a personality test as part of an application. However, certain types of personality tests could subject an employer to litigation before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Read on to learn more about the types of personality tests that may be prohibited under federal regulations.

What personality tests are under investigation?

Several individuals have filed complaints with the EEOC alleging that certain pre-employment personality tests unlawfully discriminate against those with mental illnesses. Because mental illness is a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are not permitted to employ any job selection requirement that disproportionately discriminates against or weeds out individuals suffering from mental illness unless the nature of the job is such that certain types of mental illness could substantially interfere with public safety (for example, a law enforcement officer or prison guard). 

Any type of test that asks questions like, "Do you feel sad sometimes?" or "Are you ever confused by your own thoughts?" and then negatively grades the test-taker if he or she answers "yes" may be skirting close to the discrimination line.

What should you do if you've been denied employment after failing a personality test?

If you suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, or another condition that you believe caused you to "fail" a pre-employment test, you may be able to file a complaint with the EEOC or even hire a private attorney to sue the company. You'll need to show not only that you weren't hired as a result of this test, but that you otherwise fit the skills and qualifications for which this employer was looking -- making it clear that this employer discriminated against you solely on a protected category.

In some cases, you may be able to settle for "specific performance" -- the employer will be required to give you another interview and application (minus the test) and must hire you if you otherwise fit the required skills and qualifications. In other cases, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. An employment attorney will help you evaluate the merits of your case and determine which path holds the greatest odds of success.