Employers use many different tests to determine if prospective employees are capable of working for the company. One of the most controversial tests is known as a physical abilities test or PAT. Walmart was accused of routinely using such a test to measure the ability of prospective employees to withstand the requirements of the workplace. Many potential workers claimed that the test was discriminatory on gender grounds because it routinely excluded female applicants. Any such test would violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1954. Walmart recently settled such a claim for payment of $20,000,000 to settle the case before it claim to a court case.
The Employment Equal Employment Opportunity commission alleged that Walmart used a PAT test to exclude female employees from filling positions such as order fillers at Walmart’s grocery distribution centers and that it disproportionately excluded females from such positions. The EEOC alleged that Walmart’s practices violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits the use of tests that have a discriminatory impact upon a particular gender or racial category.
The attorney for the EEOC said with respect to the settlement that the case was settled because Walmart, which denied used of the discriminatory test, agreed to accept the use of a test that was reviewed and approved by experts in evaluating the discriminatory effect of similar tests. The key to the settlement was the increased availability of jobs for women in Walmart’s distribution centers.
The settlement in this case, while not having the same effect as a judicial precedent, has a powerful effect on future cases. Women who work for Walmart can cite the case with have a much greater chance of promotion into jobs with greater discretion and pay. No longer will Walmart be able to use markers of gender to exclude women from important jobs.