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How algorithm-based hiring tools can increase disability discrimination

More employers are using algorithm-based hiring tools for remote candidates. But a new report shows that a reliance on these tools can exacerbate inequities


As businesses have embraced remote work, more and more jobs have become accessible to people who worked from home out of necessity well before the pandemic. For people with disabilities—many of whom have long asked for remote accommodations at work—a lasting acceptance of remote work could be a silver lining of the pandemic.

“My hope is that when we eventually come out of this crisis, the remote work model will be seen under a whole new lens, one that allows companies to confront their own ableism and consider hiring those of us who can and do work remotely,” disability rights activist and journalist Keah Brown wrote for Fast Company. “We have the necessary abilities to be an asset to their companies if they let us.”

But even as workplaces become more flexible—and presumably more inclusive–people with disabilities continue to face discrimination during the hiring process. As highlighted in a new report by the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), the widespread adoption of algorithm-based hiring tools has only exacerbated existing inequities and discriminatory practices. Many employers use résumé screeners, while 76% of companies with more than 100 employees reportedly ask job applicants to take personality and aptitude tests; some businesses even use facial and voice recognition technology in the hiring process.

“Many employers who use these kinds of tests do so because they believe that they’re more neutral and more effective—that using these tests will make the hiring process more equitable because it will become more consistent, and it won’t involve potentially biased human recruiters and human HR people,” says Lydia X.Z. Brown, a co-author on the report and policy counsel with CDT’s Privacy and Data Project. “That is, in fact, how many vendors market their tools.”

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