Creating Acceptance Guidelines For Positions of Trust: Do Recent Court Decisions Require Changes?

Written By: Stanley M. Slowik*
Oct 26, 2023

Many Human Research interviewers and Law Enforcement background investigators are unaware that the recent Supreme Court Students For Fair Admissions (SFFA, 6/29/23) decision includes a prohibition against the use of “standardless goals” which as the term indicates defy objective measures of effectiveness or achievement. In July, the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees, one of SFFA defendants, decided that the SFFA decision applies not only to college admissions but hiring and contracts as well. Also in July, a federal Court (Ultima, 7/19/23) applied the SFFA decision to Section 8(a) federal contracts. When applied to the selection process for law enforcement, teachers and other positions of trust, public and private employers are encouraged to review both the selection information targets and standards involved to make sure they avoid decision criteria that lack any objective, work performance measure. The following discussion is taken from the Objective Pre-employment Interviewing program which has been accepted and used by thousands of federal, state and local law enforcement and other government agencies, School Districts and numerous diverse private employers since 1988 (OPI, 2023).

Selecting Information Targets

Selection systems for law enforcement, education and other positions of trust differ significantly for other professions in that the quality of the applicants’ character is often valued more by employers than the applicants’ competency in performing work related tasks. While these jobs do in fact include a minority of applicants with experience in the job being sought (laterals), most applicants lack such prior experience with the employer willing to train and intern candidates during a probation period. It is this character or behavioral aspect of the applicants’ qualifications that is delegated to integrity type interviews, criminal record checks required for state certification and pre-employment substance abuse testing. The process of identifying legally defensible pre-employment information targets is basically the same regardless of the category or method of gathering information used. In essence, the employer must be able to demonstrate that the selection information directly relates to the applicants’ ability to adequately perform the job being sought. The issue of adequate performance will be discussed in the subsequent section regarding Acceptance Guidelines or Standards but target relevancy and level of performance are inexorably combined and presented here as separate topics only to facilitate discussion.

  • Stanley M. Slowik has created selection and training programs for thousands of the most respected public and private employers and has been the principal polygraph examiner for the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office continuously since 1975.
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