Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On October 28, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced the launching of 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 that the agency enforces, according to an EEOC press release.

“Artificial intelligence and algorithmic decision-making tools have great potential to improve our lives, including in the area of employment. At the same time, the EEOC is keenly aware that these tools may mask and perpetuate bias or create new discriminatory barriers to jobs,” EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows stated in the press release.

The initiative will examine how technology is fundamentally changing the way employment decisions are made and aims to guide applicants, employees, employers, and technology vendors in ensuring these technologies are used with federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws. As part of the new initiative, the EEOC plans to:

  • 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; and
  • Issue technical assistance to provide guidance on algorithmic fairness and the use of AI in employment decisions.

“Bias in employment arising from the use of algorithms and AI falls squarely within the Commission’s priority to address systemic discrimination. The EEOC will address workplace bias that violates federal civil rights laws regardless of the form it takes,” said Burrows, who was appointed by President Joe Biden in January 2021.

The EEOC has examined the issue of AI, people analytics, and “big data” in hiring and employment decisions since 2016. That year, the EEOC held a public meeting on the use of “big data” in the workplace. In addition, the EEOC’s systemic investigators received extensive training in 2021 on the use of AI in employment practices.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the EEOC is responsible for advancing opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, including discrimination resulting from hiring technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and algorithms. To learn more about the EEOC, visit www.eeoc.gov.

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