In selection systems that leverage more than one procedure and/or tool to make employment decisions, evaluation of disparities becomes complicated, as disparity analyses may be required at multiple steps in the process. Selection procedures comprising more than one procedure and/or tool may be categorized into one of two main types of procedures:

  • Compensatory systems
  • Non-compensatory systems

Compensatory systems are those in which a number of different tools are used, and the scores from each of the tools are combined using an established weighting system to derive a final score. Employment decisions are based on the final combined score, so low performance on one tool may be counteracted by high performance on another tool. That is, the better score “compensates” for the lower score, and nobody is classified as “fail” based on the score associated with any one tool. For example, a police officer applying for promotion to sergeant might do such a good job on an interview that it compensates for his low score on a job knowledge test.

In contrast, non-compensatory systems are designed such that there are at least two steps in the selection process, and minimum scores are established for one or more of the steps. Candidates must meet all the established thresholds to remain in the candidate pool. That is, a high score on one tool cannot “compensate” for a score that falls below a minimum threshold set for another tool. Candidates failing to meet all established minimum thresholds are eliminated from consideration. An example of a common non-compensatory system is the use of criminal background checks to screen candidates before inviting them in for further assessment. That is, a high score on a physical ability test would not compensate for recently being convicted of a serious crime that is related to the job.

In fully compensatory systems, disparity analyses are only required at the final decision stage, as no individual “pass/fail” decisions are made until that stage. In contrast, in non-compensatory systems, disparity analyses are required at every step in which there is a minimum score required to maintain status as an applicant. That is, at every point at which an employment decision is made. In addition, validation evidence is required to justify using every tool or stage in which there are differential “pass/fail” ratios according to status protected under Title VII.

by Kayo Sady, Ph.D., Consultant, Eric Dunleavy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant, and Mike Aamodt, Ph.D., Principal Consultant, DCI Consulting Group

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