Is it legal to use a personality assessment when hiring?

Let’s cut to the chase: It is completely legal to use a personality assessment in your hiring process as long as it is not the sole basis for evaluating the candidate.

Satisfied? Get back to work! For the rest of you, read on.

We were recently contacted by our friends at Sea-Level Ops asking about the legal ramifications of using personality assessments when hiring. One of their clients was concerned after receiving a note from ADP advising against the use of personality assessments in the hiring process because it might constitute grounds for a discrimination suit. Thankfully, Sea-Level knows we offer talent assessments and referred the question to us.

First of all, we applaud ADP for trying to keep their clients educated and aware of potential risks. Hiring is a delicate process and there are many laws preventing discriminatory hiring practices based on age, race, or disability.

However, in this regard, ADP is being overly cautious. There are no laws where “personality” or personality traits equate to a protected class like age, race, or disability, and we have never heard of a case where someone felt discriminated against via their personality assessment.

It is possible that a similar case exists, we have simply never heard of it.

A disgruntled job applicant (through their attorney) could try to correlate a personality assessment’s conclusions and the ensuing hiring decision to a protected class. It’s just unheard of, and highly unlikely because it would probably not succeed, especially if the employer’s hiring process involved multiple points of interest and does not rely solely on a DISC assessment.

Even if a lawsuit did allege discrimination based on an assessment, the plaintiff would have a very difficult time making their case. Assessment providers provide ample research and evidence for the methodologies behind the tests and their conclusions. It is likely a defendant would be able to successfully defend their hiring decision partially by drawing a correlation between personality traits and the needs of the job.

Sorry ADP, you had the right intentions. I think what you meant to say was, “Always evaluate candidates from multiple angles. A hiring decision should never be predicated solely on any single personality assessment. Instead, it should include multiple interviews, assessments, and skills tests to confirm the candidate is the right match for the position at your company.”

This is the right advice, not only to avoid potential litigation but also to select the best person for the job.

It should also be noted that assessment providers require consent to use someone’s data and acknowledgment of a liability waiver prior to taking an assessment. Here’s the Data Use Consent and Liability Waiver from our provider, TTI Success Insights:

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While this releases our company and our provider from liability, it does not release your company from liability. So make sure to evaluate candidates on multiple points in your hiring process (as it says in the last line of the Liability Waiver).

Here’s some further reading about the topic that I found interesting: