Hiring managers can’t discriminate — neither can AI

More companies are using artificial intelligence to screen job applications, and there is growing concern about AI bias in the hiring process, according to the Alexandria, Virginia-based American Staffing Association.

“Nearly half of employed job seekers, 49%, believe artificial intelligence tools are more biased than their human counterparts,” said American Staffing Association president Stephen Dwyer, referring to results of a recent survey.

The skepticism is higher among individuals actively looking for a job.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently issued guidance on use of AI in the recruiting process, particularly on how those screening tools must adhere to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In August, the EEOC settled the first-ever AI discrimination lawsuit when tutoring company iTutorGroup agreed to pay $365,000 to resolve charges that its AI screening tool automatically rejected female applicants over age 55 and male applicants over age 60, in what the Society for Human Resource Management called a groundbreaking achievement.

The American Staffing Association said the settlement sends a clear message to hiring managers.

“Much like in any screening process, they have to be careful that the artificial intelligence tools they use do not discriminate on the basis of protected classes. Otherwise, employers could be liable,” Dwyer said.

New York City recently became the fist jurisdiction to require employers using AI in the hiring process to conduct routine AI bias audits, and other jurisdictions are expected to follow.

When the tables are turned, job seekers seem much more comfortable with using artificial intelligence in their job search process. The association’s survey found that 39% of current job seekers have used AI tools to assist in applying for a job. That includes online tools that will compare a resume and cover letter to an existing job posting before a job seeker even applies.

“It will give them a score, basically telling them how responsive to a job ad their resume and cover letter are,” Dwyer said.

The association’s online survey was conducted by The Harris Poll from June 20 to June 22 and included more than 2,000 U.S. adults.

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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