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Can Workplace Algorithm Hiring Tools Increase Disability Discrimination?

February 18th, 2021

Some employers use scanning software on resumes and algorithms during in-person interviews to detect subtle movements. While these methods might be helpful to find ideal candidates, they also do not consider those with disabilities. Since the technology is seeking a certain physical response, those with a disability may be incapable of providing it, which could rule them out for a job, despite their overall qualifications.

How are the Algorithms Unfair?

The algorithms do not blatantly discriminate in how they sort through job candidates. Hiring managers are conducting tests and the machine is red flagging certain responses. The machines are not considering any disabilities in how a person responds to the test.

Given the hundreds of resumes companies receive, employers need a way to eliminate a significant group of them. They use computers to scan resumes for certain keywords or terms that will allow candidates to stand out. One area that could trigger the elimination of a candidate is if there are any gaps in their work history. Not being able to find a job is a common problem among disabled workers. Due to this, disabled workers may be eliminated for the job.

Algorithms are used throughout the hiring process, including during interviews. Hiring managers like to give evaluations that test a person’s aptitude and personality. The goal is to determine if a person has the correct emotional make-up to hold down the job that they are applying for. This becomes worrisome before the test is even administered. If a candidate has a visual or hearing disability, it could hinder their ability to properly take the test. Without any reasonable accommodations, the computer could read certain answers based on a person’s voice and eliminate them.

What Technologies Do Hiring Managers Use?

Another aspect of the aptitude test is the physical response a candidate will make to answers posed to them. There is one piece of software that many hiring managers use that provides employers with a numerical score of a candidate’s responses to questions using several factors, including their verbal response, their speech pattern, and any facial reactions. The software calculates all those factors and produces an employment score for the hiring manager. The score is supposed to determine how hirable or how much of a good fit a candidate will be for the open position.

The actual substance of what a person says is not nearly as important as their body language. Facial responses alone make up about 29 percent of a person’s employment score. This can be a problem for a disabled person who might be hard of hearing. It can also hinder those who have some type of facial deformity. The algorithm detects any problems that differs from the norm without taking into consideration any disabilities.

Disabilities are not the only thing that is inadvertently eliminating viable candidates from positions. For instance, for tests that are reliant on certain speech patterns, those who do not speak English as their first language could have a problem. Since it is not their primary language, they may have to speak slower or more deliberately to ensure that they are using the proper words in their proper context. Often, when speaking a foreign language, a person misuses or mispronounces a word. A misspoken word could raise a red flag with the computer system, and they may no longer be considered for the open job position.

Is Unemployment Common Among Disabled Americans?

Typically, the disability unemployment rate is a high 6.1 percent compared to the record-breaking unemployment numbers of other groups. Many disabled employees are seeing smaller paychecks than other workers. The Census Bureau reports that those without disabilities make about $25,000 to 35,000 more than disabled employees.

Are Businesses Accommodating Disabled Workers?

With a rise in remote working environments because of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, opportunities for disabled workers are increasing. Those who might not have been physically able to come into an office to work now have a new avenue available to them.

When the United States starts to get out of the pandemic and companies decide to return to their offices, some may elect to continue to work from home. They could decide that remote work is a more effective and cheaper alternative to renting an office space and having people commute to a central location. Even if a company does decide to return to an office, the efficacy of working from home should be apparent to many of them, meaning they might be more amenable to hiring someone with a disability who can successfully perform the job from home.

What are Some Ways to Avoid Disability Discrimination?

There are several solutions to lessen employment discrimination. They range from avoid using algorithms to attempting the difficult task of retraining the software to accommodate for disabled people. The easiest option for employers is to make these aptitude tests optional and not directly tied to any employment decisions.

If an employer is still dependent on this type of test for making any hiring decisions, they can adopt a more universally accessible test. They need to find one that will not depend too hard on certain physical reactions. As part of adopting this system, a potential employer needs to be open and honest about what the test is looking for and how it is used. This will give potential employees everything they need to know before they decide to participate in it.

An important way to modify the test is to present it in such a way that it tests for the specific position that an applicant is applying for. The test should be evaluating those skills that a potential employee will need for the job they are considering. Barring that, the test should be as accessible as possible and not overly dependent on something that a disabled person could be lacking.

Another more difficult solution is to reprogram any algorithms so it takes into consideration that some people might have a disability. While possible, it is a daunting task that could take a long time to complete. However, the effort could be well worth it since without this diverse training, highly qualified candidates could be eliminated from consideration due to their disability and not because they are not qualified for a position.

If a worker or potential employee believes they are encountering discrimination, they are advised to contact an employment lawyer about their options.

Philadelphia Discrimination Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Help Disabled Workers Fight Against Workplace Discrimination

If you feel that you were passed on a job because of your disability, you can seek financial compensation. A Philadelphia discrimination lawyer at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. will be by your side and will help you get the results you deserve. Complete our online form or call us at 215-569-1999 for a free consultation today. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.

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