The use of artificial intelligence in many workplaces is increasing. An estimated 25% of organizations use AI in their human resources activities, and 85% of employers using AI admit it helps boost time management and efficiency.
One of the popular uses is to screen employees, which can become problematic as AI may discriminate against certain groups. One study found that an AI hiring tool discriminated against Black applicants about 50% of the time. The Algorithmic Accountability Act of 2022 aims to require “impact assessments” if a company opts to use AI for hiring decisions, loan decisions, or housing applications.
In life, there’s always good to be found with the bad, and that’s no different. While there’s plenty of press covering the risk of intentional or unintentional discrimination with the use of AI, there’s another side that’s often overlooked. Artificial intelligence is helpful in avoiding employment and workplace discrimination. There are a number of ways that this can happen.
Analysis of Resumes and Cover Letters
Resume-screening software is fast and effective in screening hundreds of resumes in minutes rather than hours or days. When an employer has hundreds of applicants for one position and doesn’t have weeks to read cover letters and resumes, AI becomes a timesaver.
But, an employer needs to make sure the AI software isn’t biased toward a specific gender, age, race, or religious group. It’s up to the employer to verify that there is no bias in the AI software being used. Using multiple programs is a good way to avoid bias.
If different AI programs are being used, the odds are better that the AI was not biased in any way. If employers find the results are drastically different, it’s worth looking into the algorithms being used to make sure there are no options selected that could be creating unintentional bias.
People can make their resumes and cover letters look fantastic by using templates or copying and editing a letter they get from an HR expert, but that cover letter and resume are inflated and are not quite accurate. Interviews are essential to gauge ability and determine if a candidate is a good fit, but interviewing hundreds of applicants takes time. That’s where AI comes in.
Artificial intelligence like chatbots can do pre-interview screenings with applicants and use the parameters an employer sets to find the best candidates. HR workers do need to add parameters that prevent bias. Some of the things that employers should be monitoring are that AI isn’t using words or phrases related to disabilities or ages in order to remove candidates. Facial recognition software shouldn’t be looking for specific races or genders.
As the results of pre-interviews come in, employers can take the top candidates and arrange in-person or virtual interviews. But, HR experts should also scan the list of other interviewees who were not selected to see the reason AI opted against them. Employers must make sure the reasoning cannot be construed as biased.
Employers also need to work closely with AI software vendors to verify that any questions regarding physical or mental health issues or impairments are not used to rule out candidates. It’s often better not to use them at all until someone is offered the job. At that point, reasonable accommodations can be addressed.
Identifying Early Signs of Racial and Sex Discrimination in the Workplace
Back in 2019, developers created an AI program that could recognize the signs of racial and sex discrimination in messages, emails, and such. This type of technology could be a game changer when it comes to identifying issues before they get out of hand.
For example, a company has a supervisor who has a very condescending tone in emails, messages, and virtual meetings with the female members of a team. The approach with men in the team is completely different. AI could identify that change in tone with women and alert HR. HR can address the issue with the supervisor immediately.
Tracking a worker’s performance is another area that AI makes easier. AI can look for patterns surrounding a workforce to help ID potential problems that could be related to employment discrimination. If there is a solid worker that management has passed over for promotions time after time, AI could identify that issue. HR could then take a closer look and find out why.
Artificial intelligence can help find candidates who are deserving of raises or promotions and make HR aware of it. Workers and supervisors don’t always mesh. Those personality conflicts aren’t tied to any of the categories of workplace discrimination. It’s simply a case of not having similar interests or personality styles. A worker may be reserved while a supervisor is outgoing.
When those personality clashes keep a manager or supervisor from recommending a worker for a promotion or raise, it’s problematic. An unhappy employee is more likely to abruptly quit or start working with less attention to detail. AI is unbiased and finds these employees who keep getting overlooked. AI makes sure HR is aware.
Employers Have a Responsibility to Make Applicants and Employees Aware
If a company is using AI to pre-screen candidates for jobs or job promotions, they need to make sure employees are aware of it. Transparency is important, and notices should be in clear, understandable language and not hidden in a lot of fine print. A notice should include statements covering:
- Why AI is necessary for assessing candidates for jobs or promotions.
- What traits the AI was assessing and how those traits are identified?
- Where AI is specifically being used.
- If other factors or variables are being used in decision-making.
- What reasonable accommodations are available to employees who need them, and the steps employees should take to request accommodations?
Even with the best of intentions, the use of AI can go wrong. What if you were certain you were well qualified for a job, but your resume was overlooked and you found out that all female applicants were turned down? What if you qualified for and needed no training for an opening in your department, but you learned AI picked someone younger and new to the company? You’d want to know what AI was basing decisions on as there is the risk of bias.
What Steps Do You Take Next?
As a worker, what do you do if you feel AI has unfairly judged you, leading to discriminatory practices or behaviors? You do not have to take abusive behaviors, be punished for an AI systems miscalculation, or lose out on a job or job promotion due to an AI’s unfair analytics.
Keep all proof you collect against your employer, potential employer, or AI system.
Take everything you’ve saved and see an employment law attorney. An attorney who specializes in employment discrimination can help you understand how to file a complaint.
Shegerian Conniff is happy to discuss your case during a free consultation. We’ll go over your rights and what steps you need to take. If we agree to represent you, you do not pay us money upfront. We typically work on a contingency fee basis, which means our fee is taken from your settlement.
Don’t let fears of being able to pay your lawyers keep you from reaching out to us. Initial consultations with the employment discrimination attorneys at Shegerian Conniff are always free and completely confidential.