As the focus on workplace safety increases and companies simultaneously struggle to find qualified workers in a competitive job market, the need for an accurate and fair evaluation of prospective employees has never been more crucial. As a result, the use of a Post-Offer Employment Test (POET) has increasingly become a critical component of many organizations' hiring processes. However, while companies receive significant benefits from these programs, they can leave organizations legally exposed when not managed properly. 

This article will explore the benefits of POET programs, identify which companies need them most, and discuss what they can do to protect themselves during implementation. 


What are POETs?

POET programs are one of the most beneficial injury prevention resources available to employers. They are a targeted solution to help reduce musculoskeletal injuries that often occur with more physically demanding jobs.  They often also provide a quick payback.  

POETs are physical exams given to prospective employees to ensure that their physical capabilities match the physical demands required for the job they are applying for.   Each POET is specific to the employer and job and occurs after the company makes a conditional job offer. If the applicant does not meet the demands of the test, the company can rescind the applicant’s job offer, evaluate whether reasonable accommodations exist, or use the information to match new employees with roles that suit their abilities. 

POETs are a valuable tool for employers, and the specific tests conducted will depend on the nature of the job. For example, a POET may be appropriate for a job that involves heavy lifting or physical labor but not for an administrative role. 


What are the benefits of POETs?

One of the most significant benefits of implementing a POET program is the reduction of workplace injuries. By assessing a candidate's physical abilities, organizations can ensure that employees are capable of performing specific job functions.  Therefore, employers can take steps to minimize injury risk by identifying issues before an employee starts working.

POETs also help companies to better understand the functional capabilities of their candidates and take proactive steps to match employees with jobs and duties they are capable of performing. A well-matched employee is more likely to stay with the company longer, reducing the costs associated with hiring, onboarding, and training. 

By carefully evaluating each applicant’s ability to perform specific job functions, companies can make more informed hiring decisions, leading to a safer, more capable and efficient workforce. 


Do I need a POET program?

A POET programs is a targeted solution and makes sense for companies in specific situations.   In general, a company should first look at their loss-run data, and then consider employment competitors to determine if a program makes sense for them.

Loss-run data will indicate if an organization has a significant number of new hires making injury claims within the first 18 months of employment. If so, that may indicate new employees are entering the company with functional capabilities that do not match well with the demands of their jobs. 

Loss-run data will also indicate the type of injuries new hires are reporting.  If they are musculoskeletal in nature, a properly run POET program will reduce these losses.  Traditionally physically demanding jobs like construction and manufacturing positions benefit from the process, while it likely doesn't make sense to have the accounting department go through a POET program.

Finally, it's important to consider if employment competitors are conducting POETs.  If so, it's in your best interest to do the same since you may be left picking through candidates who are less capable of doing the work and more likely to experience an injury. 


How do I avoid legal risk? 

POET programs offer companies many benefits, but it is essential to understand the potential legal exposure associated with their implementation. Any testing must be job-related and based on the specific tasks and abilities necessary for performing the essential functions of the job. 

Some companies make the mistake of testing every job similarly. However, taking this blanket approach could be risky from a legal standpoint. That's because if the assessment doesn't have a clear connection with the essential functions of the job, it could be considered discriminatory. 

Companies must ensure their program complies with federal, state, and local laws, and do not unfairly disqualify candidates. For example, testing cannot disproportionately impact individuals based on their race, sex, age, disability, or other protected characteristics under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and other applicable laws. 

To minimize legal exposure, companies should work with legal counsel and qualified professionals to develop and implement a POET program that adheres to all applicable laws and regulations. In addition, regular audits and reviews of the program can help ensure ongoing compliance and reduce the risk of legal challenges.


How do I balance a POET program with recruiting needs?

Some organizations can find it challenging to balance a POET program with their organization's recruiting goals, especially in today’s competitive labor market.  A POET program can be polarizing, especially if the safety team is incentivized to reduce injuries and the human resources team is incentivized to hire employees.

It is important to first understand that legally not all jobs need to participate in a POET program.   Only physically demanding jobs that exhibit an early seniority musculoskeletal injury pattern should be targeted.  Doing so will help avoid unnecessary testing.

Next, while legally you can test up to a job’s essential function demand level, companies are not a required to do so.  POET requirements can be set at lower test demands to help reduce the burden on recruiting and hire more job applicants.  While this increases injury risk, doing so helps companies strike a balance and consider the needs of all stakeholders.

Finally, POET programs can be adjusted if the program fails to meet a company’s expectations.  However, in general there is less legal scrutiny involved when test demands are reduced rather than increased.  It is better to start with a more demanding POET program and reduce the requirements later if needed.


What should I look for when picking a POET service provider?

POET programs can be straightforward and provide exceptional benefits for companies. However, they can also create significant issues if not appropriately managed.  Finding the right service provider can simplify the process and ensure you get the most benefit possible. 

There is no one size fits all solution for POETs, and companies need to find what works best for them and their goals. That's why it is essential to find a provider that understands your business needs and can design a custom and cost-effective program that meets all regulatory requirements. 

Every job has its physical requirements, and your POET service provider should perform an on-site demands analysis to measure and validate each job's essential task demands. This serves as the foundation of your program and ensures you're tests are legally valid. This is an important step, so watch out for companies who use generic job descriptions, which can put your employees and company at risk. 

Service providers should develop a screening protocol based on the job applicant's ability to complete essential job-specific tasks. Robust protocols mean there is never a question in a job applicant's mind on how a test relates to a job function. 

The logistics of POET programs also play a significant role in success. In situations where significant ongoing hiring occurs, onsite testing will reduce costs, improve efficiency, and provide the best job applicant experience.  In low volume multi-site situations, it is important your service provider has a large and experienced network to provide consistent tests at all locations.

The most effective POET service providers also help with hiring practices, HR policies, and recruiting communications. Once the process is in place, they also provide ongoing quality assurance and management support services to assure operational and legal success.

Finally, POET providers should be able to demonstrate and show measurable results. Otherwise, how will you know your process is working? These providers need to make it easy for your organization to understand the data's meaning and how it will affect your recruiting process, injury costs, and legal risk. From there, they should recommend adjustments based on the information gathered, assuring the program meets your business and legal needs.


Final thoughts

POET programs are a powerful tool for reducing workplace injuries and associated costs. However, it isn't without its risks. Thankfully, with the tips described above and by partnering with a reputable POET service provider, companies can protect themselves, their employees, and their bottom line.