Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn
On October 13, 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a public meeting at agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. on how “Big Data” – the use of algorithms, data scraping of the internet, and other means of evaluating thousands of pieces of information about an individual – is being used to make hiring and other employment decisions during background checks, according to an EEOC press release.
A panel of industrial psychologists, attorneys, and labor economists told the EEOC – the agency responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination – that both the use of and the scope of Big Data are expected to grow exponentially in the future during background checks for employment decisions. The EEOC has posted biographies and statements of all panelists at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/10-13-16/.
“Big Data has the potential to drive innovations that reduce bias in employment decisions and help employers make better decisions in hiring, performance evaluations, and promotions,” EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang stated in the press release. “At the same time, it is critical that these tools are designed to promote fairness and opportunity, so that reliance on these expanding sources of data does not create new barriers to opportunity.”
“It can be a challenge to determine whether, when, and how laws may apply in our increasingly technology-driven workplaces,” EEOC Commissioner Victoria A. Lipnic, who helped organize the meeting, also stated in the press release. “But I see this at the core of our responsibilities: Ensuring that our understanding of today’s workplaces and our interpretation and administration of the law, are as current and fully-informed as possible.”
Lipnic told the EEOC that Big Data algorithms used to match candidates for jobs “may be trained to predict outcomes which are themselves the result of previous discrimination. The high-performing group may be non-diverse and hence the characteristics of that group may more reflect their demographics than the skills or abilities needed to perform the job. The algorithm is matching people characteristics, rather than job requirements.”
A person speaking on behalf of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) observed: “The question of whether employers can leverage contemporary Big Data for employment decision-making has been answered in the affirmative. Whether employers should do so, and how to go about it in their particular situation, are separate questions.” The EEOC press release is at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/10-13-16.cfm.
The EEOC will hold open the October 13, 2016, meeting record for 15 days, and invites audience members, as well as other members of the public, to submit written comments on any issues or matters discussed at the meeting. Public comments may be mailed to Commission Meeting, EEOC Executive Officer, 131 M Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20507, or emailed to: [email protected].
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Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), a leading global background check provider, helps employers comply with EEOC Guidance on criminal background checks through resources, blogs, and a complimentary whitepaper written by ESR founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen. ESR also helps employers better understand the use of Big Data during employment background checks. To learn more about ESR, please visit http://www.esrcheck.com.
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