Artificial intelligence is expected to transform our human existence… but what is it exactly?
Let’s go to Webster’s Dictionary for help:
“Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for include: speech recognition, learning, planning, problem solving.”
One thing is certain, AI is coming (and in some cases has arrived) to workplaces everywhere and will impact everything – including employment law.
Here is a smattering of ways employment law will be impacted by this next phase:
- Recruitment: AI is already impacting recruitment by making candidate search tools more “intelligent” and more efficient. It’s expected that AI will also help employers seeking to recruit a more diverse workforce.
- Accessibility: Technological advances should make it possible for more people with disabilities to function productively in the workforce. AI devices and platforms (Microsoft’s Seeing AI app and IntelliGaze, Amazon Echo and Google Home) will increasingly allow employers to help employees with disabilities continue working and remain fully engaged.
- Gender Equity: AI has the potential to improve recruitment as stated above. It also has the potential to help employers manage bonuses, benefits and even pay through tracking technology that ties back to actual output by employees. AI platforms such as Textio are already available to help employers create fairer metrics and comparisons between all employees.
- Intergenerational Integration: The Connecticut workforce is increasingly made up of older workers seeking to extend their years in the workforce and younger workers who have an almost innate understanding of technology. Getting them to work cohesively is a challenge as technology advances. AI should help employers bridge the technological divide – allowing for efficient and productive collaboration.
Is AI a cause for concern for some employers?
To a degree, yes. There have already been claims from job applicants that AI recruitment systems are impacting candidates with protected characteristics – such as race and ethnicity.
For example, a recruiting tool that screens out applicants based on their distance from a worksite may impact candidates of different races or ethnicity, depending on the demographics of surrounding areas.
And despite the claim that AI may help with intergenerational collaboration, there is a growing concern that AI may in fact hurt older workers – in the belief that as workforces get smaller – older employees will be released disproportionately relative to tech savvy younger workers. This result is called a disparate impact.
In fact, most employment attorneys who are working in this area of the law are seeing a rise in disparate impact class-action lawsuits.
Are there steps employers can take to proactively protect themselves from the legal problems that will inevitably flow from AI?
Yes – here are a few:
- Make sure your managers and HR staff are part of any planning around the integration of AI in the work environment.
- Ensure compliance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act). The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), 29 U.S.C. § 2101 et seq., requires businesses that have 100 or more full-time employees (or 100 or more employees, including part-time, who work at least 4,000 hours per week, excluding overtime) to issue 60 days’ advance written notice of a plant closing or mass layoff to (1) the affected non-union employees, (2) the representative of affected unionized employees, (3) the state or entity designated to carry out rapid response activities, and (4) the chief elected official of the unit of local government where the closing or layoff will occur.
- Consider a voluntary ADEA-compliant termination plan. Before carrying out an involuntary reduction in force (RIF), consider adopting a voluntary termination strategy, such as offering employees separation agreements that release the employer from all claims in exchange for a monetary sum.
- Determine whether reductions or plant closings are subject to mandatory bargaining.
So, what will be the long-term impact of this new technology?
No one knows for sure. Some experts suggest AI will carry social and economic costs in the early years – but that over time – will have a neutral if not positive impact on employment.
Time will tell.
Stay tuned. We will be tracking this one…
If you are an employer in Connecticut and have questions about labor or employment law, contact the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale. 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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