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Technology could be discriminating against disabled applicants

On Behalf of | May 24, 2022 | Disability Discrimination

In Santa Barbara and throughout California, workers should understand how the law protects them from employer wrongdoing. This is often viewed in the context of people who are not hired, promoted or lose a job entirely because of illegal discrimination.

Now, however, there is a new technology that companies use as part of their search process. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has many positive features, but government entities are warning employers that it could be discriminating against certain segments of the population, specifically disabled people. If people with a disability are denied an opportunity, this could be a reason and justification for legal action.

AI might be negatively impacting a disabled person’s job search

As part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, everyone should have an equal chance at employment. That may be challenged with more and more companies using AI when going through an employee search. AI is based on algorithms to find candidates. These algorithms might not be calibrated to adjust for people who are disabled, leading to discrimination. Although it might be unintentional, employers are responsible for how they find workers and for making certain everyone receives a fair chance.

Statistically, there is a dramatically low number of disabled people who are currently working. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that in 2021, only 19% of people with a disability had a job. This is compounded by the growing percentage of employers who rely on AI to find people to hire. An estimated 83% of employers overall and 90% of those on the Fortune 500 are using AI.

Among the obstacles disabled people are confronted with are if they have challenges that impact their speech or are autistic, it could be viewed as a negative based on AI. They might be eliminated when they are fully capable of performing the work.

Government entities issue warnings about AI and discrimination

To counteract this, the Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have warned employers that their use of AI could violate the ADA and leave them vulnerable to legal claims. It gave a guidance document trying to make it clear that these tools are problematic.

With this guidance, these entities are striving to make employers aware of how their AI might be discriminating against disabled applicants. To thwart that, the concept of reasonable accommodation should be accounted for in using AI. If AI is serving as an impediment for disabled people, employers can be in violation of the law.

Disabled people have options if AI is damaging their prospects

Disabled people want to take part in the workforce and be productive. Their disabilities are not supposed to be a hindrance when they can perform the duties of the job they seek. While employers who use AI to screen potential employees might not be purposely discriminating against disabled people, the result is the same.

With the Justice Department and EEOC informing employers about this problem, disabled people should also be cognizant of it and understand their rights. To fight back against any form of discrimination, taking large employers to task will likely require professional assistance. Consulting with experienced people who understand the perspective of employees and the current landscape can help with pursuing a claim.