Incorporating AI in the workplace is a balancing act for employers

Printer-friendly version

As the influence of artificial intelligence (AI) continues to permeate the workplace, its accessibility and widespread use are becoming defining elements of the modern professional landscape.
When carefully harnessed, AI has the potential to revolutionize the way businesses operate, offering efficiency, innovation, and transformative solutions.

However, as organizations increasingly integrate AI into their practices, the ethical considerations surrounding its use have come to the forefront, prompting responses from regulatory and legislative bodies, including the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the NJ Legislature.

The EEOC is focusing on employers’ increasing use of technology as part of the organization's Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2024.

This focus includes the use of technology, including AI and machine learning, to target job advertisements, recruit applicants, or make or assist in hiring decisions where such systems intentionally exclude or adversely impact protected groups.

Perhaps the most visible example of AI employment bias to date has been at Amazon.  The company's AI-driven hiring model, while groundbreaking, encountered a major stumbling block - a propensity to favor male candidates for technical roles.  The algorithm, when learning from its human-generated dataset, inadvertently absorbed ingrained biases and perpetuated them.

"Integrating generative AI into decision making seems like a good defense to bias, particularly in hiring; however, unconscious bias can seep in,” said Amy Vazquez, Interim President of Employers Association of New Jersey.  “Organizations must remain vigilant about the ethical and compliance implications of using this technology in HR practices."

According to the EEOC, whether an employer or computer made a bias employment decision, the employer is ultimately liable. That’s why employers should consider working with their vendors from the start to ensure they are using the products correctly and reducing the potential for bias decision-making.

The EEOC recommends that employers test all employment-related AI tools early and often to make sure they aren’t causing legal harm.

In New Jersey, proposed legislation (A4909) mandates a “bias audit” for hiring software, allowing only tools that have undergone scrutiny for discriminatory patterns.  It would require annual reviews of whether programs comply with state law.

“As employers explore best practices for integrating AI into existing workflows, their focus should be on leveraging AI’s capabilities, with a keen eye towards fairness and compliance,” says Vazquez.

Employers Association of New Jersey (EANJ) is hosting a one-hour webinar, aimed at providing HR professionals with the knowledge and strategies needed to integrate AI technology, foster innovation and stay ahead in the ever-evolving landscape of HR technology. Details & Registration.