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At Odds Over Adverse Impact: Perils and Pitfalls in Statistical Reasoning Involving Discrimination

Dennis Doverspike, University of Akron
Scott Morris, Illinois Institute of Technology
David Snyder, Applied Psychological Techniques

Workplace discrimination statistics vary widely in their methodology, and in their success in the courtroom. Although often thought of as a simple 4/5ths calculation, in actuality there are many methods for calculating adverse impact that are regularly used as evidence of a disparate impact. Decisions surrounding data collection, aggregation, and analysis all affect how adverse impact can and should be calculated, and how results should be interpreted. This seminar will focus on these different methods for calculating adverse impact ranging from less complex (e.g., 80% rule) to more complex methods (e.g., logistic regression, Mantel Haenszel). Each statistical method will be examined from three perspectives: the plaintiff, the defendant, and the statistician. We will discuss the pros and cons of each method of calculation in terms of its validity and interpretability and how the results of each calculation play out in the courtroom. Specifically, the panel will discuss how recent court decisions (e.g., Ricci v. DeStefano) affect the choice and calculation of discrimination statistics.
The learning objectives of this session are:

• Understand the different methods of calculating adverse impact and the pros and cons of each
• Discuss the legal ramifications of different adverse impact calculation methods
• Discuss aggregation issues and how to apply aggregation methods
• Understand the increased use of odds ratios and their interpretation
• Understand practical methods for dealing with real-world constraints when calculating adverse impact.


Dennis Doverspike, PhD, ABPP, is a full professor of psychology at the University of Akron, Senior Fellow of the Institute for Life-Span Development and Gerontology, and director of the Center for Organizational Research. He holds a diplomate in industrial-organizational psychology and in organizational and business consulting from the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) and is a licensed psychologist in the state of Ohio. Dr. Doverspike has over 30 years of experience working with consulting firms and with public- and private-sector organizations, including 15 years as executive vice president of Barrett & Associates. Services provided include individual assessments, statistical analysis, development of large scale assessment systems, job evaluation and job analysis, and expert witness services. He is the author of two books and over 100 refereed journal publications. Current major additional positions include president of the ABPP specialty board in Organizational and Business Consulting. Dennis Doverspike received his PhD in psychology in 1983 from the University of Akron. His MS in psychology is from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and his BS is from John Carroll University. He has taught courses at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, and directed dissertations, theses, and practica.
Scott Morris is an associate professor of I-O psychology at Illinois Institute of Technology where he teaches courses in personnel selection, legal issues in human resource management, and statistics. He received a PhD in I-O psychology from the University of Akron in 1994. Scott has generated a program of research aimed at improving the statistical analysis of adverse impact data, including comparative analyses of alternate statistical tests, procedures for computing confidence intervals, and methods for power analysis. His work has appeared in Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, Organizational Research Methods, and Psychological Methods. He currently serves on the editorial boards of Journal of Applied Psychology and Personnel Psychology.

David J. Snyder received his PhD in I-O psychology from the University of Akron. He has over 10 years of experience providing consulting services in the design and validation of employee selection procedures, job analyses, basic skills assessment, litigation support, pay equity, and performance management for Fortune® 100 clients. Currently, Dr. Snyder is director of statistical analysis at Applied Psychological Techniques, Inc. (APT), a human resources consulting firm, where he manages and conducts statistical analyses for myriad HR-related projects. Dr. Snyder is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. 
Coordinator: Christina Norris-Watts, Applied Psychological Techniques.