The federal government said Thursday that artificial intelligence technology to screen new job applicants or monitor worker productivity can unfairly discriminate against people with disabilities, sending a warning to employers that commonly used hiring tools could violate civil rights laws.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have jointly released advice for employers to be careful before using popular algorithmic tools intended to streamline the work of job evaluation. employees and job prospects, but may also violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“We are sounding the alarm about the dangers of indiscriminate reliance on AI and other technologies that we see increasingly used by employers,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke told reporters Thursday. of the department’s civil rights division. “The use of AI compounds the long-standing discrimination faced by job seekers with disabilities.
Examples given of popular work-related AI tools included resume scanners, employee monitoring software that ranks workers based on keystrokes, game-like online tests to assess job skills, and video interview software that measures a person’s speech patterns or facial expressions.
Such technology could potentially wipe out people with speech impairments, severe arthritis that slows typing or a range of other physical or mental disabilities, officials said.
Tools designed to automatically analyze work behavior may also overlook workplace accommodations – such as a quiet workstation for someone with post-traumatic stress disorder or more frequent breaks for a pregnancy-related disability – that allow employees to change their working conditions to perform their jobs successfully.
Experts have long warned that AI-based recruiting tools — while often touted as a way to eliminate human bias — can actually reinforce bias if they draw inspiration from industries where racial and social disparities exist. gender are already widespread.
The move to clamp down on the harm they can do to people with disabilities reflects a broader push by President Joe Biden’s administration to foster positive advances in AI technology while mastering opaque AI tools and widely unregulated that are used to make important decisions about people. lives.
“We totally recognize that there is huge potential to streamline things,” said Charlotte Burrows, president of the EEOC, which is responsible for enforcing workplace discrimination laws. “But we can’t let these tools become a high-tech route to discrimination.”
A researcher who has researched biases in AI hiring tools said holding employers accountable for the tools they use is a “great first step”, but added that more work is needed to rein in the vendors who make these tools. It would likely be work for another agency, such as the Federal Trade Commission, said Ifeoma Ajunwa, a law professor at the University of North Carolina and founding director of its AI decision-making research program.
“There is now a recognition of how these tools, which are typically deployed as an anti-bias intervention, could actually lead to more bias – while obscuring it,” Ajunwa said.
A Utah company that runs one of the best-known AI-based recruiting tools — the HireVue video interview service — said Thursday it welcomes the new effort to educate workers, employers and providers and highlighted his own work in studying the performance of autistic applicants on his skills assessments.
“We agree with the EEOC and the DOJ that employers should have accommodations for applicants with disabilities, including the ability to request an alternate route to be assessed,” said HireVue CEO Anthony Reynold.
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