Posted February 14, 2019 by

Does Griggs v. Duke Power Co. prohibit the use of artificial intelligence in hiring?

One of the many things that I learned two months ago at the College Recruiting Bootcamp on AI at Google that College Recruiter organized and Google hosted was that employers need to be very, very careful about how they use artificial intelligence in their hiring decisions. Unfortunately, in a rush to make as much money as possible, many AI vendors are selling these employers on the efficiency of the technology and not adequately addressing the potential liability being created from the use and misuse of the technology.

One of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decisions was Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971), which made illegal a company’s employment requirements which did not pertain to an employee’s ability to perform the job if those requirements had the effect of disparately impacting African-Americans and other ethnic minorities. Duke Power had argued that requiring a high school degree for its higher paid jobs was not discriminatory because it applied the same requirement to all applicants regardless of race. The Court, however, recognized that a high school degree was not needed to perform the work and negatively impacted the ability of African-Americans to be hired because fewer of them had high school degrees.

So, what does this have to do with artificial intelligence? Turns out, a lot. The typical implementation of an AI hiring tool involves the employer uploading resumes and other data for its best employees and then telling the technology to find more people like that. On the surface, that makes sense. “Our best salespeople all came to us after selling cars, so our new AI hiring technology will find car salespeople for us.”

But what if your hiring practices in the past have been discriminatory — perhaps unintentionally — and so your AI recommends more of the same candidates? For example, what if your best salespeople all had college degrees and so your AI only found or recommended salespeople with college degrees? A lot of employers — too many employers — would argue that would be a good thing. But would it be? What if you can’t prove that having a college degree pertains to their ability to sell? And what if, as is the case, those with college degrees are far more likely to be Caucasian or Asian than African-American, Hispanic, or Native American? What if your engineers are all male and so your AI disregards females?

Artificial intelligence may prove to be one of the greatest advances in our history, but we must be careful with how we use it. And whether the matching technology being touted by your other job board partner is powered by AI or not, be equally as cautious about it and for the same reasons. Do you know how that job board determines which candidates are a good match? Do you know for sure that it isn’t inadvertently discriminating against women? Minorities? Veterans? Disabled?

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Posted in Advice for Employers, Diversity, Horror Stories, HR Tech, Recruitment Strategies, Workplace Problems | Tagged Tagged , , ,