EEOC Asked to Clarify Authority to Investigate Bias in AI Hiring Technologies

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Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On December 8, 2020, ten Democratic members of the United States Senate sent a letter requesting clarification from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair Janet Dhillon regarding the EEOC’s authority to investigate bias in Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven hiring technologies, according to a press release on the website of U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), one of the Senators who signed the letter.

“While hiring technologies can sometimes reduce the role of individual hiring managers’ biases, they can also reproduce and deepen systemic patterns of discrimination reflected in today’s workforce data…” Bennet and the other nine Senators wrote in the letter to EEOC Chair Dhillon. “Combatting systemic discrimination takes deliberate and proactive work from vendors, employers, and the Commission.”

The Senators continued in the letter: “Today, far too little is known about the design, use, and effects of hiring technologies. Job applicants and employers depend on the Commission to conduct robust research and oversight of the industry and provide appropriate guidance. It is essential that these hiring processes advance equity in hiring, rather than erect artificial and discriminatory barriers to employment.”

As businesses prepare to re-open from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, some companies will turn to AI to manage and screen large numbers of applicants to support a physically distant hiring process. In their letter to Dhillon, the senators requested information to ensure that the EEOC has the authority to research the impacts of AI-driven hiring technologies to provide applicants and employers with guidance on how to combat bias.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the EEOC is responsible for combatting discrimination in the U.S. workforce, including discrimination resulting from hiring technologies. These technologies include a range of tools used in the hiring process, such as gamified assessments, video interviews that use machine-learning models to evaluate candidates, general intelligence or personality tests, and other instruments.

In addition to Senator Bennet, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), Tina Smith (D-Minnesota), Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). The text of the letter is available in the press release and also here.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, transgender status, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws. To learn more about the EEOC, visit www.eeoc.gov.

Employers using automated hiring platforms powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the belief that they are less biased and discriminatory than humans will discover that using such technology in background screening will remain a work in progress, according to leading global background check provider Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), which compiled the the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2020.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – which was named the number one background screening firm in 2020 by HRO Today – offers criminal record searches that comply with the EEOC’s “Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.” To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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