EEOC Commissioners Discuss Enforcement Priorities, Artificial Intelligence in FWPC Webinar

December 03, 2021

Democratic Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chair Charlotte Burrows and Republican Commissioner Keith Sonderling joined Future Workplace Policy Council staff and members in exploring, among other things, the various compliance challenges facing companies using artificial intelligence in the HR context.  Importantly, Commissioner Sonderling cautioned employers against taking a “hands off” approach and giving too much deference to technology.

Chair Burrows discussed the EEOC’s initiatives on artificial intelligence and retaliation, and gave her perspectives on the future collection of the EEO-1 Component 2 data and further COVID-19 guidance.  A top focus of the EEOC, she said, will be “to strengthen and be more thoughtful about how we approach systemic discrimination, in all the statutes we enforce and all the areas we are looking into.” 

Further COVID-19 guidance is a “top priority to us at the Commission,” Chair Burrows noted.  “You will continue to see guidance coming out from the Commission… particularly around the religious and medical exemptions.” 

Conversations on adjustments to the collection and use of EEO-1 Component 2 pay data will extend well into 2022, Chair Burrows noted, and will hinge on a forthcoming evaluation by the National Academy of Sciences.  “We are going to continue to look at it,” she said, “and find a win-win way to approach this.  It is really important to have whatever the EEOC ends up doing incorporate the best thinking from everyone who has skin in the game.” 

EEOC Commissioner Keith Sonderling discussed the compliance challenges related to artificial intelligence as well as the opportunities companies have to potentially bolster their DE&I efforts through technology.  “The bottom line,” he noted, “is that companies cannot take a hands-off approach to HR technologies, because inaccurate, incomplete, or unrepresentative data potentially can amplify, rather than minimize, bias.”  Commissioner Sonderling touched on the EEOC’s new initiative on AI and welcomed input from the Association and its members.  To see the full interview, click here.

Following Chair Burrows' and Commissioner Sonderling’s remarks, Accenture’s Beck Bailey, Managing Director of Global Inclusion and Diversity, and Deb Santiago, Senior Managing Director of Global Services Legal, joined Jones Day Partner and former EEOC General Counsel Eric Dreiband in a panel moderated by Ani Huang, HR Policy's Senior Vice President. 

Accenture highlighted their practices for ensuring that the use of artificial intelligence in the employment context achieves the company's goals without producing outcomes that disadvantage certain demographic groups.  For example, they underlined the critical need to explain how the AI works, in addition to designing it well and described their rigorous process for testing new AI tools before adoption.  Mr. Dreiband, in laying out the legal landscape, stated that “ultimately, responsibility for a machine learning tool, however it’s used, will be with the employer, not the vendor.” 

Join the Association next week for our final Future Workplace Policy Council webinar featuring a deep dive on the policy issues facing employers one year into the Biden administration and a Democratic Congress.  The webinar will feature an appearance by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and will cover paid leave, labor mandates, pay equity, data privacy, and immigration as we head into 2022 with mid-term elections on the horizon.  You can register for the event here.