Another Defeat for MMPI Psychological Test

Teacher & Employment Testing

Rent-A-Center, a national chain of appliance leasing stores, has agreed to pay $2 million to its California employees to settle a lawsuit challenging its use of a much-criticized psychological test in making hiring and promotion decisions. The 502-item version of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) included such true-false items as “I have never indulged in any unusual sex practices,” “I have difficulty in starting or holding my bowel movements,” and “I go to church almost every week.”


Though the MMPI is widely administered by businesses and government agencies around the nation, this is not the first legal action to successfully challenge its use (see Examiner, Summer 1993, Fall 1989). In one case, Target Stores ended up paying over $1 million to prospective security guards whom it had forced to take the test. Police departments in Boston, New York, and Rhode Island all have agreed to removed MMPI items that dealt with sex or religion.


Attorney Jeffrey A. Ross, who represented the workers who sued Rent-A-Center, explained the absurdity of using the test. “An employee’s proven track record in the job,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle, “is clearly a better — and more lawful — way to judge their abilities than whether they pray every week or have difficulty starting and holding their bowel movements.” As part of the settlement, Rent-A-Center will no longer administer the test at any of its 2500 stores.