A federal judge has ruled that a Minneapolis-based trucking company was in violation of federal law when they used a physical strength test to screen truck drivers.

On September 8, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that Stan Koch & Sons Trucking violated workplace discrimination laws when it used a physical strength test as a hiring screen.

The EEOC says that the practice violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and discriminates against women because of their sex.

The EEOC lawsuit specifically alleges that Koch’s use of a strength test developed by Davenport, Iowa-based Cost Reduction Technologies, Inc. (CRT) “disproportionately screened out women who are qualified for truck driver positions at Koch.”

The judge sided with the EEOC in its claim that the strength test unfairly screened out women who had been given conditional offers of hire by Koch to work as truck drivers or who were already employed by Koch and were required to take the test to return to work following an injury.

The court found that Koch failed to show that the test was job-related or necessary to the business.

Gregory Gochanour, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago, said, “The women who failed the CRT test were qualified, experienced truck drivers who had successfully worked at other companies but were prevented from working at Koch, in effect, because of their gender. One of the priorities for EEOC is removing artificial barriers to employment, like the test used in this case, so we are very pleased with the court’s decision finding that the test was not job-related and consistent with business necessity.”

In further court proceedings, the EEOC will seek relief for a class of women denied employment by Koch due to the strength test. The EEOC plans to file an injunction to prevent Koch from using the CRT test moving forward.

In October 2020, Koch agreed to pay former employee Alana Nelson $165,000 and provide her with “an apology for how she was treated by the company.” 

Nelson was hired by the company in 2012 and hurt on the job in April 2013. She was placed on leave through a worker’s compensation program until July 2013, when she was fired shortly after failing CRT test.

She later filed a complaint with the EEOC, alleging that Koch & Sons discriminated against her based on gender through the strength test.

Nelson reapplied with Koch in January 2014 and then again in April 2014, at which time she was reportedly told that she could not be hired at that time due to a pending legal matter — her EEOC complaint.

In August 2019, the EEOC filed a separate class action suit against Koch & Sons over the use of the CRT test.

“Employers are allowed to use hiring screens and they are allowed to use physical abilities testing, when appropriate,” said Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago. “However, when a hiring screen has disparate impact on female applicants and employees, like the CRT test did at Koch, employers need to take a hard look at whether they can prove those tests are job-related and consistent with business necessity. The fact that a job requires some physical strength will not, by itself, justify the use of any particular physical ability test; the test has to actually fit the physical requirements of the job or be shown to predict an important job outcome. This case should serve as a reminder to employers of the importance of having a professionally designed, rigorous study showing a clear relationship between performance on a test and the employer’s job.”

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