Cook's Pest Control settles bias case

Cook's Pest Control settles bias case

February 28th, 2012 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Math tests could be racist if they're required for a job that isn't math-based, according to a recently settled class-action lawsuit filed against Cook's Pest Control, the nation's eighth-largest pest control company.

According to plaintiff Marion Waters' complaint, Waters and other job applicants took a written math and geometry test as part of the job screening process for many types of jobs at the company.

But administering a math test "disproportionately excludes African-Americans as candidates for jobs, and the test is not a valid predictor of success in the various jobs," plaintiffs' attorney Campbell Law PC wrote in a 2010 news release.

A legal notice posted Monday said that "Cook's denies this, but the parties agreed to resolve the issue through a class settlement subject to court approval."

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Jim Aycock, president of Cook's Pest Control, said a court order prevented him from commenting on the details of the case, adding that he hoped to "bring closure" to a suit that has been ongoing for five years.

Only African-Americans who took the math test and were denied employment are eligible for part of the monetary settlement.

But the recording on the class-action hotline revealed that the original employment applications themselves never required job seekers to specify their race, and past applicants "may have been sent a notice even if you are not African-American."

The recording further specified that the settlement "applies only to African-Americans, and specifically only to those African- Americans who applied for employment at any Cook's location from March 1, 2005, to Jan 27, 2012, and who were denied employment."

The pest-control case echoes another lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice against the Chesapeake [Va.] Police Department, alleging that a math test unfairly disqualified black and Hispanic officer applicants, according to

According to the 2007 article, a Justice Department survey found that while almost 89 percent of white applicants passed the test, only 57 percent of black applicants were able to pass the exam, which the agency said was not a good measure of how well a police officer could do his or her job.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfree or 423-757-6315.