Historically, people have an expectation of being treated fairly, particularly in the workplace. A variety of laws exist in the U.S. to encourage organizations to comply with fair hiring procedures. U.S. organizations are challenged by laws that mandate compliance to fair hiring procedures while maximizing on potential utility of selection tests. Organizations outside of the U.S. could also suffer organizational and societal consequences as a result of hiring procedures perceived as unfair. Some very valid selection tests and procedures, which result in high test utility, may not be considered fair by society or law. This chapter presents possible solutions for human resource managers to insure they are complying with fair selection while maximizing on the usefulness of the selection procedure.
Fairness in the workplace encompasses many arenas. An individual’s belief of the extent to which he or she is being treated fairly can influence the emotional and behavioral reactions of that individual in the workplace. The concept of organizational justice relates to an individual’s beliefs of fair or unfair treatment in the workplace and has been identified to come in at least two forms, distributive, and procedural (Colquitt, Conlon, Wesson, Porter, & Ng, 2001). Distributive justice regards the perception of fairness in the allocation of outcomes or rewards to the members of the organization. Procedural justice concerns the perception of fairness with regard to the process or procedure by which rewards are allocated. Justice perceptions have been found to affect employee attitudes and behaviors such as organizational citizenship, trust in the organization, respect for leaders, intentions to quit, job satisfaction, and job performance (e.g., McFarlin & Sweeney, 1992). In addition to justice perceptions affecting current employees, they can also affect those individuals applying for the job. If the testing and selection process and the allocation of job offers result in perceptions of unfairness, costly litigation, and other negative societal outcomes can ensue.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a U.S. federal legislation that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and defines what are known as protected classes (subgroups). This legislation prohibits practices that result in intentional and unintentional discrimination. The Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (1978) set forth guidelines that incorporated a single set of principles designed to assist employers, labor organizations, employment agencies, and licensing and certification boards to comply with requirements of U.S. Federal law prohibiting employment practices which discriminate on grounds of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
To comply with the spirit of U.S. Federal law prohibiting unfair hiring practices, human resource managers should, when feasible, investigate differences in prediction systems for racial, ethnic, or gender subgroups. Such investigations have traditionally examined possible differences in subgroup validity coefficients (differential validity) (Boehm, 1977). Differential validity exists when a selection test is more valid for one group than another (e.g., valid for majority group but invalid for minority group). However, examinations of possible differences in standard errors of estimates and in slopes and intercepts of subgroup regression lines (differential prediction) may provide a more complete assessment of fairness (Hartigan & Wigdor, 1989). With these examinations, one can determine if one group’s predicted performance is different than the predicted performance of another group (e.g., using a single regression line for predicting performance outcomes results in the under prediction of majority performance and the over prediction of minority performance) (Cascio & Aguinis, 2005).