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Frequently Asked Questions Assessment Policy

Legal Aspects of Assessment

  • The Uniform Guidelines (http://uniformguidelines.com/) apply to all selection procedures used to make employment decisions, including written tests, interviews, review of experience or education from application forms, résumés, work samples, physical requirements, and evaluations of performance.  Employment decisions include, but are not limited to, hiring, promotion, demotion, membership (e.g., a labor organization), referral, retention, and licensing and certification (to the extent that licensing and certification may be covered by Federal equal employment opportunity law).  Other selection decisions, such as selection for training or transfer, may also be considered employment decisions if they lead to any of the decisions listed above (see sections 2B and 16Q in the Uniform Guidelines, http://uniformguidelines.com/, and Question 6 within Questions and Answers, http://uniformguidelines.com/qandaprint.html). For more information regarding the Uniform Guidelines, please contact Assessment_Information@opm.gov.
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  • Recency is typically defined by the number of years that have elapsed since the job-relevant training or experience was acquired.  The implication is that those lacking "recent" experience (however that term is defined by the employer) may be  given less credit in the assessment process.  However an employer, or agency, decides to use recency, under the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (http://uniformguidelines.com/), it is imperative a selection procedure's method of application or use must be justified.*  It is conceivable that recency may be a job-related factor for occupational areas subject to rapid change (e.g., medicine, information technology, and engineering) or for skills or knowledge that decay from lack of use. A recency requirement is no different from any other selection procedure used as a basis for disqualification.  In each case, the employer or agency must provide evidence of a demonstrable relationship between the employee selection procedure and job performance.  In terms of a recency factor, justification may involve providing evidence of major changes in the nature of the work (e.g., in terms of basic theory, practice, or subject matter) or degradation in critical job competencies over time. 
    *See Uniform Guidelines at 15c(7), http://uniformguidelines.com/:   "(7) Uses and applications. The methods considered for use of the selection procedure (e.g., as a screening device with a cutoff score, for grouping or ranking, or combined with other procedures in a battery) and available evidence of their impact should be described (essential). This description should include the rationale for choosing the method for operational use, and the evidence of the validity and utility of the procedure as it is to be used (essential)."
    For additional information regarding the use of recency in assessments, please contact Assessment_Information@opm.gov.
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  • In short, OPM does not offer specific guidance to agencies on how accommodation requests are processed.  Please check your agency's policies on processing accommodation requests because policies may vary by agency.   For some general information in regards to processing accommodation requests, you may want to consult the Association on Higher Education and Disabilities (AHEAD) "Guidelines for Documentation of a Learning Disability in Adolescents and Adults" (available on several websites, for example: http://www.ldonline.org/article/6127/).    The guidelines are used by numerous educational institutions, testing organizations, and employers to evaluate the adequacy of documentation used to support the existence of learning disabilities.  Documentation of a "specific learning disability" (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) term) often requires gathering information from aptitude (intelligence quotient, or IQ), achievement, and information processing tests.  The results should be summarized in a report by a qualified evaluator (e.g., a mental health professional with experience and training in the assessment of learning problems).   If the applicant does indeed have a specific learning impairment, the battery of test results should show average to above-average mental ability (IQ of 100 or higher) in combination with pronounced difficulties in one or more specific areas of achievement.  IQ/achievement score differences that reach statistical significance are used to support a clinical diagnosis of a learning disorder.  However, a clinical diagnosis only rises to the level of a "disability" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if the individual is unable to perform, or is substantially limited in the ability to perform, an activity "compared to an average person in the general population" (see EEOC's "Technical Assistance Manual: Title I of the ADA, Section II," http://askjan.org/links/ADAtam1.html).    In terms of achievement scores, the average adult is assumed to function at the high school level.  For instance, an applicant whose intellectual functioning is at the college level but only achieves at the high school level (because of a learning impairment) would normally not meet the ADA legal criteria of having a disability.  Not all clinically diagnosed impairments meet the "substantially limited" criteria under the ADA.   For more information regarding assessment accommodations, please contact Assessment_Information@opm.gov.
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  • When assessing the appropriateness of an employee selection procedure, it is important to distinguish between competencies that are needed upon entry to the job and those that are acquired after selection, either through on-the-job experience or training.  Only those competencies that applicants are expected to possess the first day on the job are appropriate to use for selection purposes.  Conversely, those competencies that employees will be expected to learn on the job should not be the subject of an employee selection requirement.  Competencies not considered essential on the first day of the job – even those that eventually will be critical for job performance – can unfairly eliminate otherwise qualified applicants. Please see Appendix G in the Delegated Examining Operations Handbook for more information regarding competency importance and ratings: http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/hiring-authorities/competitive-hiring/deo_handbook.pdf For more information, please contact Assessment_Information@opm.gov.
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  • The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA, http://www.foia.gov/) can be employed to protect agency examining materials regardless of the basis for filing a disclosure request.  5 U.S.C. § 552a (k)(6) (http://www.justice.gov/opcl/1974tenexemp.htm) protects agencies from mandatory disclosure of "testing or examination material used solely to determine individual qualifications for appointment or promotion in the Federal service the disclosure of which would compromise the objectivity or fairness of the testing or examination process."  Courts have ruled that "agency testing or employee rating materials" are covered by Exemption 2 (DOJ's FOIA Guide contains a summary of Exemption 2 case law, available at: http://www.justice.gov/oip/foia_guide09.htm).  The Delegated Examining Operations Handbook, (Chapter 7, Section B - Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts) contains general policy and guidance as well:  http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/hiring-authorities/competitive-hiring/deo_handbook.pdf Also, please check with your agency as how to handle FOIA requests when the examining material at issue is in litigation. For more information regarding FOIA and assessment content, please contact Assessment_Information@opm.gov.
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  • An assessment accommodation is defined as a change in how an assessment is presented or how the applicant is asked to respond.  Accommodations may include changes in the presentation format, response format, assessment setting, timing, or scheduling.  The purpose of an assessment accommodation is to provide equal access to the examination process for applicants with disabilities.  Accommodations are intended to lessen the impact of the applicant's functional limitation on the assessment process without:  
    • Fundamentally altering the nature of the examination,
    • Compromising the security, validity, or reliability of the examination,
    • Providing an unfair advantage to the applicant with the disability, or
    • Imposing an undue hardship on the agency.
      While providing accommodations will presumably enable applicants to better demonstrate their mastery of job-related competencies or knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs), assessment accommodations are not a guarantee of improved performance, test completion, or a passing score.   Specific guidance is provided in Appendix O (Assessing Applicants with Disabilities) of the Delegated Examining Operations Handbook:  http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/hiring-authorities/competitive-hiring/deo_handbook.pdf For more information regarding assessment accommodations, please contact Assessment_Information@opm.gov.
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  • No, the agency does not have to provide the accommodation specifically requested by the applicant.  The only requirement is that the accommodation be effective.  It does not have to be the best accommodation, or even the one specifically requested by the applicant.  Please see the following excerpts:  
    Technical Assistance Manual:  Title I of the ADA (http://askjan.org/links/ADAtam1.html) III.THE REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION OBLIGATION   3.4 Some Basic Principles of Reasonable Accommodation "A reasonable accommodation must be an effective accommodation. It must provide an opportunity for a person with a disability to achieve the same level of performance or to enjoy benefits or privileges equal to those of an average similarly-situated non-disabled person.  However, the accommodation does not have to ensure equal results or provide exactly the same benefits or privileges.   A reasonable accommodation need not be the best accommodation available, as long as it is effective for the purpose; that is, it gives the person with a disability an equal opportunity to be considered for a job, to perform the essential functions of the job, or to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of the job."
     
    Enforcement Guidance:  Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/accommodation.html)   9.  Is an employer required to provide the reasonable accommodation that the individual wants?   "The employer may choose among reasonable accommodations as long as the chosen accommodation is effective.  Thus, as part of the interactive process, the employer may offer alternative suggestions for reasonable accommodations and discuss their effectiveness in removing the workplace barrier that is impeding the individual with a disability.   If there are two possible reasonable accommodations, and one costs more or is more burdensome than the other, the employer may choose the less expensive or burdensome accommodation as long as it is effective (i.e., it would remove a workplace barrier, thereby providing the individual with an equal opportunity to apply for a position, to perform the essential functions of a position, or to gain equal access to a benefit or privilege of employment).  Similarly, when there are two or more effective accommodations, the employer may choose the one that is easier to provide.  In either situation, the employer does not have to show that it is an undue hardship to provide the more expensive or more difficult accommodation.  If more than one accommodation is effective, 'the preference of the individual with a disability should be given primary consideration.  However, the employer providing the accommodation has the ultimate discretion to choose between effective accommodations.' (29 C.F.R. pt. 1630 app. §1630.9 (1997)."
      For more information regarding assessment accommodations, please contact Assessment_Information@opm.gov.
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