Dockworkers Stop Irrelevant Test

Teacher & Employment Testing

Minority dockworkers who lost out on jobs in southern California ports because they failed the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) will have another opportunity to be hired and share a damage award of $2.75 million under the terms of a recent consent decree. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, a shipping industry trade association, also agreed to stop administering the test to new applicants.


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which brought the challenge, contends that the skills measured by the TABE are not required to be an effective dockworker. The TABE purports to assess reading, math, grammar and reading comprehension. EEOC also was concerned about the disproportionately high rate of African American, Latino and Asian American applicants excluded by the exam.


All candidates who failed the TABE will be allowed to reapply for openings as “casual” dockworkers. Those who qualify and complete a training period will be eligible for a portion of the settlement pool. The part-time positions are the first step toward union membership and well-paid, full-time jobs.


Dana Johnson, an EEOC lawyer involved in the case, praised the outcome noting, “One of our goals is to remove obstacles for minority access to jobs, particularly when those obstacles are tests that don’t relate to the skills required.” Despite this consent decree, the TABE is still widely administered by other private and public sector employers around the country.