EEOC warns employers they’re responsible for any A.I. discrimination in hiring, firing, or promotions—even if accidental

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Employers diverge on the topic of A.I. use in the workplace.
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Companies are coming down on both sides of the debate on employee use of third-party A.I. tools in the workplace. Some leaders encourage staffers to explore the technology, viewing it as a way to usher in innovation and enhance productivity, while others have banned it altogether, expressing privacy concerns. The chatter has grown so loud that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) chimed in last week, issuing guidance on using A.I. in employment selection procedures and warning of possible discrimination.

Here’s what you need to know about the latest guidance and where employers are landing on the issue. 

Understanding the EEOC’s guidance. Per Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers will be held responsible for any adverse discriminatory impact of A.I. technology on employee selection procedures such as hiring, promotion, and firing, even—and in many cases—if performed by a third-party vendor.

HR teams should be cautious about platforms that use A.I. and potentially biased algorithms, such as résumé scanners that prioritize keywords, employee monitoring software that rates employees on the number of keystrokes, or virtual assistants and chatbots that reject candidates based on predefined requirements. 

“What will happen is that there’s an algorithm that is looking for patterns that reflect patterns that it’s already familiar with,” Charlotte Burrows, chair of the EEOC, told the Associated Press. “It will be trained on data that comes from its existing employees. And if you have a non-diverse set of employees currently, you’re likely to end up with kicking out people inadvertently who don’t look like your current employees.”

What employers say. Most leaders seem to be shunning ChatGPT’s use in the workforce due to privacy risks. In early April, Samsung employees accidentally leaked confidential internal source code and meeting recordings while using the chatbot. Few companies have publicly aired discrimination concerns, though many, like Samsung, are building their own internal A.I. platforms. 

Embracing A.I. As expected, several tech companies are moving full speed ahead on A.I. Sumit Chauhan, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s office product group, shared with me at Fortune’s MPW Next Gen conference that Microsoft is, of course, already using generative A.I. internally with tools like Copilot, an A.I. assistant embedded in Microsoft tools. (The company is also a major investor in OpenAI.)

“If you think about our life today, especially at work, so much of it is consumed by drudgery. We dread getting up in the morning and going to our inbox,” said Chauhan, who uses the tool to summarize and synthesize her daily emails and internal documents and “get the rote [tasks] out of the way so you can focus on being creative and being strategic.”

Watch the entire conversation weighing the promises of A.I. and productivity here.

Amber Burton

Reporter's Notebook

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Many leaders have lamented that the post-pandemic cohort in the workforce lacks the social skills needed to thrive, but studies have found otherwise

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Everything you need to know from Fortune.

Leave of absence. Uber put its head of diversity on leave after backlash over two panels titled “Don’t Call Me Karen” about “the American white woman’s experience.” —Eleanor Pringle

Opening up. A senior executive at NBCUniversal kept his clinical depression secret for years until he was tapped to sponsor the company’s new mental health program. —Morra Aarons-Mele

Work-life imbalance. P.F. Chang’s 34-year-old CEO says he doesn't need work-life balance. “My life is my work. My work is my life.” —Payton Kirol

Gen Z workers. Gen X middle managers and Gen Z workers might have more in common than they realize. Both generations began their careers during major shifts in the way we view work. —Jane Thier

This is the web version of CHRO Daily, a newsletter focusing on helping HR executives navigate the needs of the workplace. Today’s edition was curated by Paolo Confino. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

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