Agencies probe AI's impact on the American workplace

KTSDesign/Getty Images

The top official at the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs said that government contractors have an "especially important role to play" in ensuring that automated technology in the workplace doesn't discriminate against qualified job-seekers.

Top officials at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs are warning about the potential for automated technology in the workplace to accelerate discrimination.

They hosted a roundtable of experts on September 13 as their agencies consider the proliferation of automated tech including artificial intelligence for job recruiting, interviewing and hiring.

"We have important work to do ahead," said Jenny Yang, director of the OFCCP, which enforces equal employment opportunity laws among federal contractors. 

The two agencies are focused on promoting equity in tech-based hiring systems as part of a joint venture to expand access to jobs for underrepresented communities, called the Hiring Initiative to Reimagine Equity.

There's also the Artificial Intelligence and Algorithmic Fairness Initiative, an EEOC effort meant to ensure that tech in hiring and employment decisions doesn't flout civil rights laws.

This federal focus comes as automated technology and artificial intelligence are increasingly being used by employers.

Nearly all Fortune 500 companies use online, algorithmic recruitment sourcing and hiring tools, said Eric Reicin, president and CEO of BBB National Programs, a non-profit that oversees self-regulation programs for businesses.

These tools include video screening tools that analyze things like facial movements to make assessments about candidates; automated sourcing and recruitment platforms that use public data to make predictions about competencies and chatbots that screen potential applicants, said Wilneida Negrón, Director of Policy and Research at worker organizing platform Coworker.org.

This technology isn't necessarily discriminatory, but can be.

"To be clear, I am not suggesting that automated hiring systems cannot be used consistently with [diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility] initiatives," said Charlotte Burrows, EEOC chair. "But it's important to understand the ways in which the assumptions included in the design of some programs that automate employment decisions can affect the diversity of candidates selected."

Algorithmic screens could "increase the diversity of our talent pools … if they measure the skills and abilities needed to succeed," said Yang. But using "proxies" like education level to screen out candidates can eliminate people who could actually be good at the job.

Digital advertising platforms can also allow employers to show job ads only to certain workers based on race, gender and age, said Peter Romer-Friedman, a principal at Gupta Wessler PLLC, who has worked on a lawsuit centering on Facebook's practices in this area.

He suggested that new EEOC regulations or guidance on how "digital intermediaries" involved in advertising or sourcing jobs are covered under the law would be helpful, although Reicin cautioned that "these are complicated and evolving technologies, so a one-size approach … may or may not work."

The EEOC said that it would issue technical assistance on the use of AI in employment decisions when it launched its AI initiative last year. It issued guidance in May with the Justice Department focused on the impact on people with disabilities specifically.

The agency is continuing "to gather information and listen to stakeholders to inform how we can use our tools like guidance and technical assistance to increase compliance with federal EEO laws and diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in both the private and federal sector," an EEOC spokesperson told FCW.

Yang called out businesses that work with the federal government in particular, saying that "federal contractors have an especially important role to play in taking proactive efforts to identify potential barriers that may exclude qualified talent and contractors must take action-oriented steps to address any problem areas."

When asked about whether OFCCP is planning on wielding its power in this area, a Department of Labor spokesperson told FCW that "OFCCP is exploring safeguards and resources that will assist employers and workers in utilizing technology in a way that opens doors to opportunity."

This article was published first on GovExec, a FederalSoup partner site. 

NEXT STORY: OPM: Here's how feds can help fight hunger and dietary diseases

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.