EEOC on the lookout for tech-fueled employment bias
The employment rights enforcement agency announced plans to crack down violations of anti-discrimination rules stemming from the use of AI and algorithmic decision-making software.
The federal agency responsible for enforcing employment discrimination rules plans to sharpen its focus on algorithmic and other tech-related employment discrimination.
The new strategic enforcement plan released by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission on Tuesday covers priorities for fiscal years 2023-2027, and is open for comment through Feb. 9, 2023.
The document states that the agency "will focus on employment decisions, practices or policies in which covered entities' use of technology contributes to discrimination based on a protected characteristic," including the use of artificial intelligence, automated recruiting and technology tools that make selections in the job-searching process as well as automated performance management software.
The EEOC has had its eye on software-based human resources management for more than a year. In October 2022, agency head Charlotte Burrows announced an effort to make sure that companies that sell and use AI- and algorithmic-based hiring tools do so in compliance with existing federal rules.
"Artificial intelligence and algorithmic decision-making tools have great potential to improve our lives, including in the area of employment," said Burrows in 2021. "At the same time, the EEOC is keenly aware that these tools may mask and perpetuate bias or create new discriminatory barriers to jobs. We must work to ensure that these new technologies do not become a high-tech pathway to discrimination."
In May 2022, EEOC released guidance that examined in detail how software vendors and employers can use human resources software without violating the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The Department of Justice is also looking at ADA compliance issues that emerge when automation technologies are used in human resources decision-making.
"We are sounding an alarm regarding the dangers tied to blind reliance on AI and other technologies that we are seeing increasingly used by employers," Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for civil rights at DOJ, said last May.
EEOC commissioners will vote on a final enforcement plan after the end of the comment period.