Artificial intelligence can be discriminatory, according to NJ bill
New Jersey lawmakers are aiming to stay a few steps ahead of the artificial-intelligence trend and implement safeguards to ensure that the technology isn't used in the wrong way when helping employers decide who they should and should not hire.
Prompted by concerns that AI can be discriminatory against certain applicants during a company's hiring process, a bill that regulates automated tools is moving through the New Jersey Legislature.
"I would like to make clear that this bill will not prohibit automatic tools from being used in decisions, but rather allow us to observe how they are being used and create a more equitable hiring process by making sure that groups are not disparately impacted," said Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer, D-Mercer.
Jaffer said her measure could also protect employers from potential litigation based on civil rights violations.
The concern among lawmakers is that an automatic hiring tool could be picking up on certain keywords or company trends that force it to, for example, exclude women or people of color when filtering applications.
Right now, use of these tools in New Jersey is unregulated.
Under the measure, job applicants would have to be notified when an automated employment tool was used in connection with their application. Also, these tools wouldn't be able to be sold to New Jersey entities without a "bias audit."
The bill was advanced by the Assembly Labor Committee on Jan. 19 and awaits an additional vote from the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee.
Lauren Marcus, speaking on behalf of the Workplace Policy Institute within the Newark-based law firm Littler Mendelson, noted to lawmakers that implementation of similar legislation in New York City continues to be delayed because of "unanswered questions." New Jersey's bill appears to have many of the same issues, she said.
"Used correctly, AI technology has the capacity to increase efficiency, reduce discrimination, and increase opportunity for all New Jersey residents," Marcus said. "At the same time, if designed or used incorrectly, it can have intended or unintended consequences of continuing patterns of unlawful discrimination."