HUNTINGTON – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against CSX Transportation, alleging it violated federal law by implementing a physical abilities test that has had an impact on female workers seeking a range of jobs with the company.
Since at least 2008, CSX has conducted isokinetic strength testing as a requirement for workers to be selected for various jobs, according to a complaint filed Aug. 1 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
The EEOC claims the strength test, known as the IPCS Biodex, causes a discriminatory impact on female workers seeking jobs as conductor, material handler/clerk and a number of other job categories.
CSX purports to use the IPCS Biodex to measure upper- and lower-body muscle strength, according to the suit.
The EEOC claims that female workers who have taken the test pass at significantly lower rates as compared to their male counterparts.
CSX has used two other employment tests, one purporting to measure aerobic capacity and one seeking to test arm endurance, as a requirement for selection into certain jobs, and female workers also passed those tests at significantly lower rates as compared to male workers, according to the suit.
The EEOC claims CSX declined to hire a class of women workers for a range of jobs they sought because they failed these tests, and the effect of company testing practices has been to discriminate against women workers because of their sex.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, according to the suit.
The EEOC claims Title VII prohibits employment practices such as tests that are administered to all applicants and employees regardless of sex but that cause a discriminatory effect or impact on persons of a particular sex.
Employers using tests for employment selection purposes that cause a significant discriminatory effect or impact based on sex, or any other covered basis, must prove that those practices are necessary for safe and efficient performance of the specific jobs for which the tests are used, according to the suit.
The EEOC claims even if such necessity is proven, the tests are prohibited by Title VII if it is shown that there are alternative practices that can achieve the employers' objectives but have a less discriminatory effect.
The EEOC first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement with CSX through its administrative conciliation process, according to a press release.
The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief and court-ordered job instatement as well as payment of monetary remedies in the form of post and future lost wages and benefits to a class of female workers adversely affected by the testing. It is being represented by James L. Lee, Gwendolyn Young Reams, Debra M. Lawrence, Ronald L. Phillips, Lisa H. Hernandez, Carol A. Casto and Stephen M. Horn.
"The EEOC has prioritized enforcement actions to eliminate discriminatory barriers to the employment of women and other workers," Lawrence said. "Therefore, employers should carefully examine their employment practices, such as tests and other selection procedures, to make certain that those practices are not causing an unlawful disparate impact because of sex or another covered demographic category."
EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis Jr. said the EEOC will take vigorous action if an employer's selection procedure has an adverse impact on women or members of any other demographic group.
“Companies must refrain from using a test causing adverse impact unless it is job-related and consistent with business necessity,” Lewis said. “Even if a test passes that standard, an employer must adopt any comparably effective alternative practices that have less adverse impact."
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 3:17-cv-03731