October 2008

Massachusetts - Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination Institutes Hiring Discrimination Testing Program

Holland & Knight Newsletter
Paul G. Lannon

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD or Commission) recently instituted a testing program aimed at uncovering hiring discrimination in areas that might not normally come before the Commission. This testing program is part of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s E-RACE Initiative (Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment), which was started earlier this year in an attempt to eliminate race discrimination in the workplace by improving public awareness and litigating discriminatory employment practices.

The MCAD’s testing program commenced this summer and will run through the spring of 2009. One component of the testing program is compare-testing, in which two comparable applicants of different age, sex, color or ethnicity are sent to apply for the same position, and the MCAD then analyzes how they are treated and whether discrimination is present. A second component of the testing program is complaint-testing, in which applicants participate in an employer’s complaint process as a means of determining whether discrimination exists.

The MCAD has used testers in the past to uncover age discrimination in hiring and race discrimination in housing and employment. In 1993, for example, the MCAD conducted a testing program to search for age discrimination against job applicants. While conducting that testing program, the MCAD audited more than 40 businesses in the Boston area by sending undercover investigators to apply for jobs, and then comparing the employer responses to determine if discrimination was taking place. The MCAD brought complaints against seven of the companies that were audited and found that at least four had discriminated against applicants.

The MCAD’s testing program is an important reminder that employers should ensure that their human resources and hiring personnel are making employment decisions in a non-discriminatory way, preferably by following a structured process, written procedures and specific criteria at all times. Employers should also consult with legal counsel to review their employment policies and hiring and training programs.

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