Should artificial intelligence or algorithms decide who is hired or promoted?

LaWanda H. Cook December 09, 2022

The use of software tools like algorithms and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI) by employers has increased significantly over the past several years. These tools are used to make decisions about hiring, performance evaluation, and promotion. While these tools may improve efficiency, their use may result in discrimination toward job seekers and employees with disabilities.

The Emerging Issue

Three main concerns exist regarding AI, as related to the Title I employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). One concern is that employers should have a process to provide reasonable accommodations when they use algorithmic tools to make decisions. A second concern is the need for safeguards to ensure that workers with disabilities are not automatically “screened out” of a job or promotion that they may be able to perform with or without a reasonable accommodation. Finally, if the use of AI or algorithms requires that applicants or employees provide information about medical conditions and/or disabilities, this may result in disability-related inquiries or medical exams that the ADA prohibits.

To Dive Deeper

For more information about this emerging issue in disability employment, refer to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)’s technical assistance document The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Use of Software, Algorithms, and Artificial Intelligence to Assess Job Applicants and Employees. This document explains types of AI, as well as the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees, in plain language. This document is part of the EEOC’s Artificial Intelligence and Algorithmic Fairness Initiative to ensure that the software, including AI, used in hiring and other employment decisions complies with federal civil rights laws. Additionally, the EEOC has released a Tips for Workers summary document.

The Bottom Line

As employers look for ways to make decisions effectively and efficiently, it is essential that their tools do not create additional barriers and/or discriminate against workers with disabilities. The use of AI tools must be undertaken in a manner that is consistent with the ADA and other nondiscrimination laws.