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EEOC announces initiative to ensure hiring tools comply with federal law

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is launching an initiative to ensure that artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging tools used in hiring and other employment decisions comply with federal civil rights laws.

“Artificial intelligence and algorithmic decision-making tools have great potential to improve our lives, including in the area of employment,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows at a Genius Machines 2021 event. “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.”

The new initiative will look at how technology is being used to make employment decisions. The agency will work to advise applicants, employees, employers and technology vendors to make sure the latest technologies are used in compliance with federal employment law.

“Bias in employment arising from the use of algorithms and AI falls squarely within the Commission’s priority to address systemic discrimination,” Burrows said. “While the technology may be evolving, anti-discrimination laws still apply. The EEOC will address workplace bias that violates federal civil rights laws regardless of the form it takes, and the agency is committed to helping employers understand how to benefit from these new technologies while also complying with employment laws.”

The new initiative will include the following work by the EEOC:

  • Establish an internal working group to coordinate the agency’s work on these matters;
  • Launch a series of listening sessions with key stakeholders about algorithmic tools and their employment ramifications;
  • Gather information about the adoption, design, and impact of hiring and other employment-related technologies;
  • Identify promising practices that comply with federal law; and
  • Issue technical assistance to provide guidance on algorithmic fairness and the use of AI in employment decisions.

The EEOC has been examining the issue of AI, people analytics, and big data in hiring and other employment decisions since at least 2016. That year, the EEOC held a public meeting on the equal employment opportunity implications of big data in the workplace. Additionally, the EEOC’s systemic investigators received extensive training in 2021 on the use of AI in employment practices.