Bosses using AI to hire candidates risk discriminating against disabled applicants

US publishes technical guide to help organizations avoid violating Americans with Disabilities Act


The Biden administration and Department of Justice have warned employers using AI software for recruitment purposes to take extra steps to support disabled job applicants or they risk violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Under the ADA, employers must provide adequate accommodations to all qualified disabled job seekers so they can fairly take part in the application process. But the increasing rollout of machine learning algorithms by companies in their hiring processes opens new possibilities that can disadvantage candidates with disabilities. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the DoJ published a new document this week, providing technical guidance to ensure companies don't violate ADA when using AI technology for recruitment purposes.

"New technologies should not become new ways to discriminate. If employers are aware of the ways AI and other technologies can discriminate against persons with disabilities, they can take steps to prevent it," said EEOC chair Charlotte Burrows.

"As a nation, we can come together to create workplaces where all employees are treated fairly. This new technical assistance document will help ensure that persons with disabilities are included in the employment opportunities of the future."

Companies using automated natural language processing-powered tools to screen resumes, for example, may reject candidates that have gaps in their employment history. Disabled folks may have had to take time off from work for health reasons, and hence they risk being automatically turned down early on in the hiring process despite being well qualified.

There are other ways that AI can discriminate against those with disabilities. Computer vision software analyzing a candidate's gaze, facial expressions, or tone is not appropriate for those who have speech impediments, are blind, or paralyzed. Employers need to take extra precautions when using AI in their hiring decisions, the document advised.

Companies should ask software vendors providing the tools if they built them with disabled people in mind. "Did the vendor attempt to determine whether use of the algorithm disadvantages individuals with disabilities? For example, did the vendor determine whether any of the traits or characteristics that are measured by the tool are correlated with certain disabilities?" it said.

Employers should think of ways of how best to support disabled individuals, such as informing them how its algorithms assess candidates, or giving them more time to complete tests.

If algorithms are used to rank candidates, they could consider adjusting scores for those with disabilities. "If the average results for one demographic group are less favorable than those of another (for example, if the average results for individuals of a particular race are less favorable than the average results for individuals of a different race), the tool may be modified to reduce or eliminate the difference," according to the document.

"Algorithmic tools should not stand as a barrier for people with disabilities seeking access to jobs," Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, concluded. "This guidance will help the public understand how an employer's use of such tools may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, so that people with disabilities know their rights and employers can take action to avoid discrimination." ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022