EEOC Launches Initiative to Ensure AI Doesn’t Exacerbate Civil Rights Issues

erhui1979/istockphoto.com

The new program looks to educate employers and employees about how algorithms are used in hiring and other employment decisions.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission wants to make sure new technologies used in hiring, firing and promotion decisions abide by civil rights laws, even if the people using those technologies don’t have a fundamental understanding of how they work.

Artificial intelligence tools are being used in the public and private sector to help employers find potential employees and make hiring and retention decisions. But those technologies carry inherent risks, including automating biases and systemic issues for organizations.

To combat this, the EEOC recently launched a new initiative to catalog those potential harms and educate employers and employees about how best to use these technologies without causing civil rights issues.

“The bottom line here, really, is despite this aura of neutrality and objectivity around artificial intelligence and predictive tools that incorporate algorithms, they can end up reproducing human biases if we’re not careful and aware that we need to check for that,” EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows said announcing the initiative during a Genius Machines event hosted by Nextgov and Defense One.

Burrows cited reports of hiring algorithms that suppressed resumes from female applicants and job posting tools that fail to give employers the full scope of potential hires.

“We have always had the role of ensuring that any screen or device that might screen someone out—might be the reason that you didn’t get a job—that those are fair with respect to not having an unjustified impact on people based on race or national origin or age, etc.,” she said. “We are launching a brand new initiative to ensure that tech-based hiring tools that are used in employment decision making—including those that incorporate artificial intelligence in some way—comply with the federal civil rights laws that our agency enforces.”

The initiative launched with five initial goals, according to an EEOC press release:

  • Establish an internal working group to coordinate the agency’s work on the initiative.
  • 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.
  • Issue technical assistance to provide guidance on algorithmic fairness and the use of AI in employment decisions.

To start, the program will focus on educating employers about the AI tools they are buying but might not understand.

“Some [AI tools] are being sold with the promise that if you remove the human element, you remove the bias,” Burrows said. “One of the things that we really want to help educate people about is that’s not necessarily actually the case.”

The EEOC plans to produce educational materials to help employers at every technical level better understand what they are buying and teach them how to audit those tools to identify ingrained biases.

The goal is not to prevent, restrict or roll back the use of AI in hiring and management decisions but rather make sure the people using those tools understand what they’re buying.

“Employers have, sometimes, a lot more resumes than they can sort through,” Burrows said. “There’s a real need there and I’m hopeful that people can get the benefit from it while still protecting civil rights.”

That said, under current law, “employers can’t just take a vendor’s word that it’s safe and complies with the law,” she said.

The commission already offers employers a set of uniform guidelines for screening potential employees—guidelines that have shown to be effective with old processes, as well as new technologies, Burrows said. But the new initiative will enhance those offerings.

“What our value added is now and the reason why we wanted to start this initiative at this moment is to help people understand how [the uniform guidelines] apply now that we have these new tools emerging,” she said. “What we’re hoping to do is have these conversations, learn most about what the questions are, then provide ongoing guidance to the public about it: You’ve got these guidelines, how do you use them in this context?”

The commission also wants to make sure employees are informed about the technologies that are influencing their bosses’—or prospective bosses’—decisions, she told Nextgov.

For instance, Burrows noted algorithms can dictate job opportunities even before someone applies for a job.

“A lot of employers like to target their ads to those whom they believe will be most interested in them or most desirable as applicants,” she said. “If there is some bias that creeps into an artificial intelligence program or other screening tools, that can actually affect the pool from the beginning.”

The initiative is in the early stages now, with a focus on fact-finding and listening sessions.

“Once we get that message out … then the next question is, ‘What do you want me to do?’ And that’s where the initiative is right now,” Burrows said.

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.