The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) launches a new initiative to ensure artificial intelligence-enabled technology used in hiring, firing, and promotion decisions abide by Federal civil rights laws.

Employers in large numbers have begun to utilize AI-enabled technologies and tools to find potential employees and make hiring and retention decisions. However, those technologies carry inherent risks, including automating biases and systemic issues for organizations.

EEOC’s AI initiative will focus on ways to help ensure that tech tools used in employment decisions comply with Federal anti-discrimination laws,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows during a webinar hosted by Nextgov and Defense One on October 28.

“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,” she said.

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
  • Issue technical assistance to guide algorithmic fairness and the use of AI in employment decisions

The first step, Burrows said, is to educate employers about the AI tools they are buying but might not understand. And while the goal is not to restrict or prevent the use of AI in employment decisions but ensure users know what they’re buying. The EEOC already offers organizations a set of guidelines on avoiding biases when utilizing AI-enabled tools for employment decisions. The initiative, Burrows added, enhances those guidelines.

“Some [AI tools] are being sold with the promise that if you remove the human element, you remove the bias,” Burrows added. “We want to help educate people [that this] is not necessarily the case.”

Since 2016 the EEOC has examined the issue of AI, people analytics, and big data in hiring and other employment decisions. This initiative, Burrows added, builds on the previous work of the EEOC in this area. The initiative is still in the early stages and currently focuses on fact-finding and listening sessions.

Read More About
More Topics
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.