Can my employer require me to take a personality test?

Question:

We have a new district manager at my company who is really interested in how people relate to each other at work. She is always talking about how "introverts" do things differently from "extroverts" and how some people act more on their feelings or intuition, while others act on logic. To be honest, I find it all a bit silly and kind of childish, but she is the manager so I just go along with it. But now, she wants all of us to take a personality test. She says this will help us work better together and understand each other more. I say this is a job and not a therapist's office. Can they make me take this test?

Answer:

You're not alone in being asked to take a personality test, nor are you alone in not wanting to take one. Many employers ask employees to take these tests, most commonly the Myers-Briggs test that claims to divide test takers into one of sixteen personality types. The tests typically come out at a retreat or another type of team-building event. The actual test-taking process is often followed by a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of each personality type and how they can work better together.

Is this valuable workplace data or a bunch of hooey? It's all in the eye of the beholder. But your manager is certainly far from alone in believing that these test results can help employees work more effectively together.

In general, employers may give personality tests to employees, but the tests must not violate certain employee rights. Some personality tests have been found to violate an employee's right to privacy. For example, if test questions intrude too far into personal, sexual, or religious matters, the test might be illegal. It depends on the test and on the laws of your state.

Personality tests results also cannot be used in a way that discriminates against certain groups, such as those of a particular gender or ethnicity. For example, if it could be shown that women are statistically more likely to fall into a certain personality type, and an employer decided to terminate all employees of that type in the name of "efficiency," an employee might have a claim of "disparate impact" discrimination. In this type of case, the employee argues that an employer practice that appears unbiased on its face has a disproportionately negative impact on a group of people who are protected by discrimination laws.

That being said, you may refuse to take the test. However, assuming you work at will, your employer is free to fire you for doing so. Perhaps the better course of action is to tell your manager that having to take a personality test at work makes you uncomfortable. If any of your coworkers agree, include them in the conversation. There's no guarantee you will convince your manager to drop the test, but it's worth a try.

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