Are Workday’s Automated Hiring Practices Fair Game or Foul Play?

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Class Action Lawsuit Alleges Workday's AI Hiring Practices Favor Bias Over Fairness

Have you ever been left with that sinking feeling after receiving a job rejection, questioning whether you truly had a fair shot? Workday, Inc., a provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources, finds itself amidst allegations that its AI-powered hiring tools may be unfairly filtering out job candidates based on race, age, and disability, potentially breaching several federal laws.

Discrimination or misunderstanding?

Plaintiff Derek Mobley filed the class action lawsuit against Workday, raising accusations about the modern job market: discrimination by algorithms. The complaint asserts that the AI tools used by Workday, which are employed by many large companies for screening job applicants, could be perpetuating biases. This, Mobley argues, is in direct violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), among other statutes.

The amended complaint lays it out bare: “Workday's algorithmic decision-making tools...provide a ready mechanism for discrimination." Mobley, who is Black, over the age of 40, and has diagnosed mental health conditions, believes that the pattern of rejections he faced is indicative of a broader, systemic issue

"Because there are no guardrails to regulate Workday’s conduct, the algorithmic decision-making tools it utilizes to screen out applicants provide a ready mechanism for discrimination."

Mobley's personal struggle and the larger case

Mobley faced a tough challenge right from the start. He had to show that Workday, the company whose software was used when he applied for jobs, was acting like an "employment agency" as defined by the law. At first, his lawsuit didn't quite convince. But then, things changed. In a new version of the lawsuit, Mobley's lawyers came back with more details. They argued that when companies use Workday's software to pick who might get a job, it's like they are letting Workday make the hiring call.

The Workday class action lawsuit gets into how these computer programs work. It says that people make these programs, and sometimes they can include their own biases, without even realizing it.

And what about Mobley? He shares his own tough experience. He applied to over 100 jobs he was right for and got rejected, sometimes just hours after he sent his application. That's the hard part he's dealing with – feeling like he's not even getting a fair chance, and that's what's really pushing this lawsuit forward.

Mobley's lawyers are pointing out that Workday looks at tons of job applications, finds patterns, and then makes choices that could leave out some groups of people. They're saying that what Workday does puts it in the role of an "employment agency," having a big influence on who gets a chance at a job and who's left out in the cold.

Mobley isn't just throwing accusations into the wind. He's laid the groundwork, citing specific laws that he believes Workday has tripped over. We're talking about the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and a slice of the California Government Code.

But here's where it gets even spicier: The lawsuit claims Workday is aiding and abetting discrimination. That's legal speak for "you're part of the problem." And if that's proven, it's a big deal.

Mobley wants change, not just cheddar

While Derek Mobley seeks monetary damages as part of the lawsuit—which is understandable given that he has reportedly been bypassed for over 100 positions for which he was reportedly qualified—the Workday class action lawsuit's broader aim is systemic change. The complaint calls for a class action certification, which would broaden its impact to include a larger group of individuals who may have been similarly disadvantaged by Workday's hiring practices.

Furthermore, the lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment to formally state that Workday's practices violate the law, alongside preliminary and permanent injunctions that would halt the company's allegedly discriminatory policies. This legal action is not just about addressing past grievances but is aimed at instigating a significant shift in how Workday and its client companies implement AI in their hiring processes.

The context of AI in hiring

The lawsuit against Workday takes on added significance given the prevalence of AI in hiring processes. According to Reuters, about 80% of U.S. employers use AI for recruitment, which underscores the potential scope of any biases such systems may carry. The EEOC has issued warnings that employers could be held responsible for discriminatory impacts of such screening software.

The Workday lawsuit is not isolated in its concern over automated systems in recruitment. The EEOC recently settled a case where iTutorGroup had programmed software to reject applicants based on age, a clear violation of the ADEA. This and the Workday case highlight the fact that existing laws are applicable to AI systems, and legal compliance remains crucial.

What’s at stake?

As the Workday class action lawsuit progresses, it will likely become a touchstone in discussions about AI and employment law. The outcome could influence not just Workday's practices, but potentially the hiring processes of many companies, and the development and implementation of AI systems at large.

So, why should we care? Because this is about the integrity of the job market, about ensuring that the digital gatekeepers are as fair as the humans they're replacing. What Derek Mobley wants – and what this class action lawsuit seeks to establish – is a level playing field, not just for him but for anyone who's ever felt the cold shoulder of a computerized "no."

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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