HR Management & Compliance

Employer Alert: Government Expands Use Of Undercover Testers In California

Last year we warned about “testers”-individuals who act as job applicants for the sole purpose of scoping out whether your hiring practices are legal. A new report has concluded that testers can help expose bias in hiring, and the government now plans to deploy these undercover applicants in California workplaces.

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Department Of Labor Tests The Testers

The report focused on a pilot program conducted by the federal Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which was aimed at companies doing business with the federal government. The agency sent two men, one white and one black, with similar backgrounds to apply for the same job. In many cases, they were treated very differently by the prospective employer. Based on these results, the report concluded that testers can be a valuable tool to uncover hiring discrimination.

The Department of Labor has now announced plans to expand the use of testers by targeting employers who have federal contracts in several parts of the country-including the San Francisco Bay Area.

All Employers Must Be Cautious

Although the pilot program involved federal contractors, employers who don’t have government contracts are also at risk because other agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, use testers to expose workplace bias.

To avoid inadvertent discrimination claims, everyone in your organization who participates in hiring must understand what they can and can’t ask applicants. Also, you should maintain written records of your contacts with all candidates, including your objective reasons for selecting or rejecting someone. Finally, it’s a good idea to have a policy of only accepting applications for specific openings, which makes it easier to show that the position’s requirements determined why you selected one applicant over another.


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