EEOC Backs Class Action Lawsuit Against Workday Over AI Hiring Bias Claims

workday ai hiring bias

EEOC Takes Aim at Alleged Bias in Workday's AI Hiring Tools

The fight for fair hiring practices in the digital age has taken a significant turn with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) entering the fray. 

In an amicus brief filed in San Francisco federal court, the EEOC has thrown its weight behind a class action lawsuit against Workday, a human resources software company, alleging its AI-powered hiring tools discriminate against job seekers based on race, age, and disability.

This development injects a powerful voice into the case filed by Derek Mobley last year. Mobley argues that Workday's software acts essentially as an employment agency by screening and filtering out job applicants for its clients.  As Injury Claims reported in February, the class action lawsuit claims this process unfairly disadvantages individuals like Mobley – a Black man over 40 with diagnosed mental health conditions – due to potential biases embedded within the AI algorithms.

EEOC challenges Workday's defense strategy

Workday has previously attempted to shield itself from liability by arguing it's not an employment agency, Reuters reports. However, the EEOC counters this defense, asserting that Workday's software performs functions highly similar to traditional employment agencies, albeit with a more sophisticated technological approach. 

The EEOC contends that since Workday's tools significantly influence which applicants get considered for jobs, the company can be held accountable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and other anti-discrimination laws.

Mobley's story: A window into a systemic issue

Mobley's experience serves as a stark illustration of the growing concerns surrounding potential bias in AI hiring tools. He claims to have been rejected for over 100 jobs he was demonstrably qualified for, often within hours of applying. 

The lawsuit argues that this pattern of swift rejections suggests Workday's software may be filtering out qualified candidates based on discriminatory factors, effectively closing doors before they even get a chance to compete.

Mobley is seeking compensation as well as class action certification. This certification would allow others who may have been similarly impacted by Workday's hiring practices to join the case, potentially expanding its reach and impact significantly. 

Additionally, the lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment – a formal court statement – declaring Workday's practices violate anti-discrimination laws. It also seeks an injunction to halt these practices, effectively forcing Workday to re-evaluate its AI hiring tools and ensure they comply with legal requirements.

A broader conversation on AI and bias

The Workday lawsuit is not an isolated incident. Concerns about bias in AI hiring tools are steadily rising. The EEOC itself recently settled a case against a company that used software to discriminate against older applicants. Both this case and the Workday lawsuit highlight the crucial need for employers to ensure their AI tools are built and implemented in a way that adheres to anti-discrimination laws.

The outcome of the Workday lawsuit has the potential to be a landmark decision that shapes the future of AI in hiring practices. It could set a precedent not only for how Workday operates but also for how companies across various industries develop and implement AI systems. As the case progresses, it will likely be closely watched by those concerned about AI bias and its impact on the fairness and inclusivity of the job market.

Mobley and the proposed class are represented by Lee D. Winston and Roderick T. Cooks of Winston Cooks LLC.

The Workday class action lawsuit is Mobley et al v. Workday, Inc., Case No. 3:23-cv-00770-RFL in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

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