Are Strength Tests for Jobs Discriminatory?

Is the use of strength tests for employment tantamount to sex discrimination?

You’ve probably seen something along the lines of “must be able to lift 25 pounds” on a job posting before. Now, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is raising concerns about strength testing. The class-action lawsuit the group filed alleges that strength testing could indeed be discriminatory against women.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. It involves potential employees at CSX Transportation’s freight rail yard in Huntington. There, the rail company requires its applicants to test their strength on an isokinetic machine. Many employees had no issues with the strength machine, and given the strenuous nature of rail work, this does not seem out of the ordinary. But test results painted a stark difference in outcomes for female applicants.

Nearly 9 in 10 men, on average, passed the tests. Only 3 in 10 women passed.

Other tests, including a step test for aerobic activity and an ergometer test for arm strength, also showed the disparity.

Are These Tests Unlawfully Discriminating Against Women?

In order for strength tests to be lawful, the test has to bear a clear relationship to the tasks of the job. It should not require more strength to pass the test than the job will require. Additionally, some fitness and health tests are also perfectly fine to administer to potential employees. However, these can run afoul of some laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act if done incorrectly.

To figure out whether CSX violated any laws, attorneys will be looking into whether CSX validated the strength tests to be used for the 38 job titles in question and if so, how it was done.

If you believe you have been unlawfully discriminated against because of sex in California, speak to a qualified employment discrimination attorney.

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