8th Circuit Upholds Strength Test Discrimination Ruling

November 27, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals has unanimously upheld a lower court decision that a pre-employment "strength test" discriminated against female applicants for jobs at the Dial Corporation's Armour Star sausage-making plant in Fort Madison, Iowa.

According to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) press release, the ruling affirmed the findings of the lower court that the test had a disparate impact against women. The decision also upheld a jury’s finding that after the second year, continued use of the test amounted to intentional discrimination against women.

In addition, the appellate court affirmed the award of approximately $3.3 million to 52 rejected female job applicants represented by the case, the news release said. Paula Liles, who filed the original discrimination charge on which the EEOC’s lawsuit was based, and a number of other class members were hired by Dial following the district court ruling and are currently employed by Dial’s successor at the plant, Pinnacle Corporation.

The seven-minute strength test required job applicants to carry 35-pound weights back and forth, lifting them to heights of 35 and 65 inches. More than 95% of male applicants passed the test, but fewer than 40% of female applicants passed it, the EEOC said. Prior to the test’s implementation in January 2000 approximately half of newly hired workers in the plant were women.

In its ruling, the district court said Dial failed to prove its contention that the test was necessary to decrease incidents of injury (See EEOC Wins Sex Discrimination Suit Against The Dial Corporation ). The court also determined the test was actually harder than the job itself.