Physical Abilities Testing: How it can help or hurt your company’s reputation

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 14, 2016 3:53:12 PM / by Deborah Lechner

Recently, we have been looking at how Physical Abilities Tests can help mitigate compliance, operational and financial risk. In this post, we’ll address the ways that Physical Abilities Testing can affect an organization’s reputation

How so, you may wonder? Think about it this way. When customers have bad experiences in a restaurant or a shopping store, they sometimes write about it on social media – posting to their family and friends or directly on a business page – where it has the potential to go viral. Think back to summer 2015 when a Maine eatery, Marcy’s Diner, made national news because a mother posted about the restaurant owner yelling at her crying toddler. The backlash was swift and significant across social media and in the traditional media.

This example was over one incident. But when a business repeatedly is using a pre-hire Physical Abilities Test that is not job-specific and validated, it can lead to many incidents of applicant dissatisfaction that build up over time and can tarnish the company’s reputation as a fair employer. In addition, if the results of the test are not applied consistently, and employers hire some that fail the test while rejecting others, federal investigations and heavy monetary fines can follow, especially if gender, disability or racial discrimination has occurred.

An example of this made news in spring 2016 when Gordon Food Service, Inc., a federal food service contractor located in Michigan, was found by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to be “systematically eliminating” women from the hiring process due in part to an invalid and thus unlawful pre-hire strength test. With this incident making news, it became public knowledge which may negatively have impacted this employer’s reputation.

In the internet age, doing things poorly or not doing them right is not going to end well. Just as positive sentiments about a company can be shared online, so can negative sentiments. Prospective employees, customers or business partners will find out if an employer has a reputation for being unfair or not caring about their employees.

This will become especially true beginning January 1, 2017, when a new rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) goes into effect. In light of revisions to workplace injury recordkeeping practices to improve safety for U.S. workers, OSHA will begin posting some of the injury and illness data received from employers to their website. This act will provide further transparency to employees, applicants and the general public – and definitely can impact reputation.

So, what can employers do that is both fair to all employees and reduces work-related injuries?  A 3-pronged strategy helps to ensure that employees have the physical abilities to match their job requirements:

  1. A pre-hire Physical Abilities Testing program helps employers select job applicants who have the physical ability to safely perform their jobs.
  2. Periodic Physical Abilities Testing (also known as periodic fitness-for-duty testing) can help employees understand their current physical condition as they age in a job. Test results can guide employee fitness efforts.
  3. Return-to-work Physical Abilities Testing (also known as fitness-for-duty testing) will help to ensure a safe, effective and timely return to work after injury or prolonged illness.

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If an employer is not consistently implementing these programs correctly or they show favoritism, they can develop a bad rap. The best way to protect reputation and to have a job-specific, validated Physical Abilities Testing program is to bring in the experts. Expertise is needed in job analysis to determine what the essential functions of a job are and to really quantify that information. The experts also need to be knowledgeable and experienced in test development to develop an EEOC and ADA-defensible test.

Employers can have a successful Physical Abilities Testing program that protects their reputation by working with an organization that understands testing and knows how to develop job-specific, validated tests.   

Download this eBook to learn more.Is a pre-hire screening program cost-effective? Find out in this independent study.

Topics: Injury Prevention, Risk Management, Physical Abilities Tests

Deborah Lechner

Written by Deborah Lechner

Deborah Lechner, ErgoScience President, combines an extensive research background with 25-plus years of clinical experience. Under her leadership, ErgoScience continues to use the science of work to improve workplace safety, productivity and profitability.