ACLU Files Discrimination Complaint Against CVS

October 21, 2009 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
Rhode Island ACLU
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United States


The Rhode Island ACLU has today filed a discrimination complaint against CVS Caremark Corporation, challenging the company’s requirement that job applicants for various customer service and other positions answer certain questions that the ACLU claims are unlawful. The complaint, filed with the R.I. Commission for Human Rights, argues that some of the inquiries violate state and federal laws that generally bar employers from eliciting any information, directly or indirectly, that pertain to job applicants’ mental or physical disabilities.

CVS utilizes an online job application process for many of its positions. One component of that process requires applicants to complete statements about “many attitudes and experiences.” Specifically, applicants must indicate whether they “strongly disagree, disagree, agree, or strongly agree” with about 100 “attitudinal” statements.

Among the statements applicants must respond to are:

  • “You change from happy to sad without any reason.”
  • “You get angry more often than nervous.”
  • “Your moods are steady from day to day.”
  • “There’s no use having close friends; they always let you down.”

Although employers may legally ask questions designed to help determine an applicant’s personality or aptitude for a job, the complaint argues that the questions listed above and similar ones “could be used to seek information about an applicant’s mental health, or could have the effect of discriminating against applicants with certain mental impairments or disorders, and go beyond merely measuring general personality traits.” The complaint, filed by RI ACLU cooperating attorney Christopher Corbett, states that an employer’s reliance on answers to those questions could have an impact on individuals with such illnesses as depression, ADHD, social anxiety, and other affective disorders. The complaint asks the Commission to halt use of the questionnaire in the company’s job application process.

The ACLU first received complaints about these application queries three years ago, but never received a satisfactory response from CVS. After receiving yet another complaint about the questions a few months ago, the Affiliate decided to pursue this action. ACLU attorney Corbett said today: “The use of this pre-employment questionnaire could very well serve to discourage qualified applicants from seeking employment with CVS. In today’s job market, the last thing people need is to worry about being screened out of employment as a result of their answers to inappropriately invasive pre-employment questions.”

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