The growth of Artificial Intelligence, including the use of algorithms and automated management systems, poses unique opportunities and challenges in the workplace. It also carries the risk of increasing inequities and prejudicial outcomes for workers, from hiring decisions to scheduling, disparities in pay, promotions, demotions, and termination.
Some of these systems pose particular risks for women and workers of color, by potentially embedding systemic biases, and also because these workers are more likely to be workingin sectors utilizing this technology. Workers are also affected by AI systems when accessing benefits or services, such as unemployment insurance. This growth of AI in the employment and benefits space should capitalize on opportunities to enhance decision-making and efficiency, but should also protect workers’ privacy, safety, and rights.
Even when workers know data about them is being collected and used to monitor their performance and provide valuable information to their employer, they don’t control or own this data. In addition, a lack of human oversight in automated systems may mean an inability to correct or appeal adverse employment decisions or benefits determinations.
Monitoring practices have become more common with increased remote work. This is particularly true for occupations which require large amounts of computer work. For instance, some companies require workers to install facial or eye recognition systems that scan workers’ faces at regular intervals to verify their identity and ensure that they are in front of their computer and on task. If workers look away from their screens for too long the system would register them as no longer at work.
The administration’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights, which followed extensive collaboration with stakeholders and across the federal government, acknowledges and notes steps employers can take to mitigate these potential harms. The Blueprint shares five aspirational and interrelated principles for building and deploying automated systems that are aligned with democratic values and protect civil rights, civil liberties and privacy:
Safe and Effective Systems: You should be protected from unsafe or ineffective systems. This includes protecting you from foreseeable harms from uses or impacts of automated systems.
Algorithmic Discrimination Protections: You should not face discrimination by algorithms and systems should be used and designed in an equitable way.
Data Privacy: You should be protected from abusive data practices with built-in protections and you should have choices over how data about you is used.
Notice and Explanation: You should know an automated system is being used and understand how it can impact you.
Human Alternatives, Consideration and Fallback: You should have access to appropriate human alternatives and other remedies for systems resulting in discrimination or other harms.
The Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights also includes a technical companion with concrete steps that can be taken now to integrate these principles into the use of AI.
Businesses will increasingly look to adopt AI tools that automate decision-making and promote productivity, efficiency, customer satisfaction, and worker safety, among other goals. This Blueprint provides the framework to ensure these tools are safe and effective, do not have unintended consequences, and are not used to threaten workers’ access to a healthy and safe workplace, collective action and labor representation, and a workplace free from discrimination. Ensuring worker input and voice are included in the design and deployment of such AI is critical to enhancing its value in the workplace.