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CDT and AAPD Applaud EEOC and DOJ Focus on AI-Based Hiring Discrimination

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) welcome the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Justice‘s announcement of guidance for preventing algorithms and AI-based systems from discriminating against people with disabilities. Such guidance is the first of its kind from a U.S. government agency, and follows long-standing calls from CDT, AAPD, and other civil society organizations for stronger oversight and robust enforcement against these technologies, which often discriminate against disabled jobseekers and employees.

Algorithm-driven technologies for hiring and employee evaluation are increasingly being used by employers, with the purported aim of removing bias. But, as the EEOC and DOJ pointed out today in new guidance, using these technologies carries a high risk of widespread discriminatory impact for people with disabilities and may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

CDT and AAPD commend the EEOC and DOJ for prioritizing greater accountability for algorithmic discrimination against workers with disabilities, who already face higher rates of unemployment and often experience discriminatory and unjust working conditions on the job. These disparities are further heightened for disabled people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community, and other multiply marginalized disabled people.

Importantly, today’s guidance stresses that employers are responsible for preventing discrimination by the algorithmic tools that they use, regardless of whether they create their own tools or hire outside companies to develop them.

“Disability discrimination by algorithmic tools can be difficult to identify and measure, since disabled people’s experiences are diverse,” said Alexandra Givens, CDT’s President and CEO, “but those difficulties do not absolve employers of their responsibility to ensure that their ‘bias-free’ tools do not cause or exacerbate discriminatory patterns.”

“Many assume that AI hiring tools are less biased because the human element is removed, when instead these technologies should come with a warning label. Unchecked ableism is built into AI hiring tools at a time when their use is increasingly ubiquitous with a devastating result on disabled jobseekers and workers,” said Maria Town, AAPD’s President and CEO. “We applaud the EEOC and DOJ for focusing on how these technologies affect people with disabilities, and for offering specific advice to employers to prevent such discrimination.”

Guidance for how employers can faithfully comply with the ADA has not kept up with rapid shifts in technology, and the EEOC and DOJ guidelines provide a long-overdue and much-needed update. CDT and AAPD look forward to working with the EEOC and DOJ to advance and expand upon this new guidance, and to make sure that best practices and oversight and enforcement efforts take an intersectional approach to limit inequities and increase employment opportunities for all disabled workers.