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Many employers, typically those offering minimum wage jobs, have applicants fill out a personality quiz. They usually probe whether the applicant believes stealing is justifiable, if they value their job above their own well-being, if their outlook on the world is bleak, and other personal questions.

It's generally accepted that you put in what the employer would value, and not your true values. However, once employed, if you revealed in conversation your true beliefs, and they ran counter to what you wrote down, could this give the employer just cause in termination?

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once employed, if you revealed in conversation your true beliefs, and they ran counter to what you wrote down, could this give the employer just cause in termination?

Texas is by default an at-will employment. Thus, absent a contract establishing termination for just cause, the employee may be terminated for anything (except when that contravenes public policy) or even for no reason at all. But you specifically ask whether the employee's eventual disclosure constitutes just cause.

It depends on whether the employment contract specifies that "the employee would be employed for so long as he satisfactorily performed his duties". Hardison v. A.H. Belo Corp., 247 S.W.2d 167 (1952). In that event, the sole discovery that employee lied about that at the interview is not evidence that the employer was dissatisfied with the employee's work performance. In a context of termination for just cause, Porter v. United Models, Inc., 315 S.W.2d 340, 344 (2008) states that

where performance is to be the satisfaction of one of the parties, his dissatisfaction must be founded on facts such as would induce action on the part of a reasonable man. He may not act arbitrarily or without reason in the matter, and the law will say that he is satisfied with that with which he ought to be satisfied.

Ultimately, an employer seeks to be satisfied with the employee's actual work performance, rather than with a screening process aimed at predicting the person's work performance on the basis of the employee's personal values.

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Strange as it may seem to people in the EU, there are places where an employer can fire an employee at any time for any reason (except for a small number of illegal reasons). So "just cause" is not required.

Since you can make mistakes filling out such a form, and since the correct answer will change over time, it would be very hard to prove that any discrepancy constitutes "lying".

And as you say, "it's generally accepted that you put in what the employer would value, and not your true values". For termination with cause, the employer would have to prove that he made it clear he wants "true values". On the other hand, with privacy laws etc. But this is such private information, I find it very doubtful that in a civilised country, an employer would be allowed to keep records of such a test.

  • "the employer would have to prove that he made it clear he wants 'true values'". An employer would not need to clarify that he wants "true values" in the screening process. It is presumed that the employer expects the candidate to answer with honesty and to the best of his knowledge. – Iñaki Viggers Aug 12 '18 at 12:05
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    Not at al. It's a "personality test". I assume that the employer wants me to give answers that allow me to pass the test. Otherwise it would be a huge violation of my privacy. – gnasher729 Aug 12 '18 at 18:03
  • (1) "I assume that the employer wants me to give answers that allow me to pass the test." Then that is not really a "personality" test; that would be more of a mind-reading test. (2) "Otherwise it would be a huge violation of my privacy." Of course not. That notion of privacy is extremely inaccurate. The test is not asking about the candidate's intimate life, medical history, or such. Asking how a candidate would react in hypothetical scenarios (or using OP's words, "whether the applicant believes stealing is justifiable") has absolutely nothing to do with the candidate's privacy. – Iñaki Viggers Aug 12 '18 at 19:06
  • I'd say it is both a privacy violation and worse, a self-identity violation, to ask about someone's personality as a condition of employment, and to expect the candidate to give candid honest answers that should continue to hold true in the future. I think such a test is only (barely) defensible on the premise that it is asked with the idea that it is meant to ask "how would you expect to behave while you are working for this company?" – Dronz Aug 12 '18 at 21:41
  • @Dronz Yes, that's precisely the idea: to ascertain how the candidate would behave under certain circumstances. As a customer/co-worker, wouldn't you appreciate if a company has policies to prevent thieves and violent individuals from interacting with you at the premises? Or would you rather prefer to risk being assaulted/disrespected/defrauded/etc. by one such co-worker as long as he has not been asked about his personality during a screening process? In light of respondeat superior, it is in a company's best interest to avoid lawsuits by wronged customers & staff. – Iñaki Viggers Aug 15 '18 at 13:30

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