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EEOC charges CSX strength test biased against women

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A physical abilities test administered by CSX Transportation Inc. had a disparate impact on female workers and violated federal law, says the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a sex discrimination lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The EEOC said in a statement that since at least 2008, the Huntington, West Virginia-based railroad has conducted isokinetic strength testing, which purports to measure upper- and lower-body muscle strength, as a requirement for workers seeking jobs as conductors, material handlers/clerks and a number of other job categories.

The EEOC charges in its lawsuit that female workers who have taken the test passed at significant lower rates compared to their male counterparts.

The EEOC said also that the company has used two other employment tests, one purporting to measure aerobic capacity and one to measure arm endurance, as a requirement for selection into certain jobs, and female workers have also passed these tests at significantly lower rates than male workers.

The complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Huntington, charges CSX has declined to hire a class of women who failed these tests and charges the firm with violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Philadelphia-based EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis Jr. said in the statement: “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. Even if a test passes that standard, an employer must adopt any comparably effective alternative practices that have less adverse impact.”

A CSX spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

In May, a federal appeals court reinstated a retaliation charge filed by a CSX worker who alleged he was given a 15-day suspension for wearing earrings he had worn during his entire 12 years at the railroad because he had filed safety complaints.