Big Data. You’ve probably heard the term – but just what does it mean?
Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that most businesses are swimming in. It also includes tests, measurements and other ways of documenting ability, behavior and competencies that employers compile and track about their employees and applicants.
But it’s not the amount of data that’s important. It’s what organizations do with the data that matters. Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions in all aspects of a business operation.
And Big Data is now increasingly being utilized to inform personnel decisions at companies across Connecticut.
How does it work?
It depends on the service/consultant you hire and the technology/applications they utilize. Some consultants claim they can judge the facial expressions of candidates during job interviews and correlate those with how a company’s “best employees” appear, purportedly helping companies make better hiring choices. Other consulting companies promise guidance analyzing company data to help employers identify job applicants most like their best employees.
The challenge for employers… all employment decisions can be challenged under a variety of federal and state laws and regulations including the ADA, the Civil Rights Act and others.
You ask…how might a computer generated choice – seemingly unbiased – generate a law suit of discrimination?
Let say your HR Big Data algorithm suggests that people who like to play basketball are your best candidates for a particular job category – and let’s also say that this recommendation results in the hiring of a disproportionate number of new male employees. It’s fair to assume a female candidate for employment might then file a discrimination lawsuit. If a suit were filed, it would be your burden of proof to demonstrate that basketball players are in fact better candidates for that particular position in your company.
Now the example above is a bit preposterous – but the point it raises is valid. Using Big Data in HR can cause problems.
Are you thinking about using Big Data in your company’s HR framework? If you are, consider three steps:
- Determine whether the consultant’s Big Data algorithm has an unbalanced impact on any segment of your workforce or applicant pool.
- Assess the reliability and validity claimed for the particular Big-Data application/consultant.
- If you hire a consultant – obtain a well crafted indemnity agreement before moving forward.
If you’re an employer and are thinking about using Big Data as an HR resource, consider calling on the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale in Connecticut for help reviewing your risks and options. We do one thing and one thing only – we are an employer defense law firm – in fact, we are one of the largest employer defense law firms in the region. What’s more, each of our attorneys have over 20 years of experience in employment law and labor law matters and can provide your business with comprehensive legal counsel ranging from assistance with necessary preventive measures to trial advocacy. Please contact us if we can help you.
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