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‘Tsunami’ of state AI regulation coming



LAS VEGAS — Westworld spoiler alert: In the words of Kelly Dobbs Bunting, a shareholder at management-side law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP, “The robots win. We all die.” 

Dobbs Bunting used the sci-fi series’ ending as a warning bell for the dangers of artificial intelligence in the workplace. On the other side of AI adoption are potential lawsuits and compliance hurdles. 

All of the new AI tools coming into play are both “kind of cool and kind of horrifying,” Dobbs Bunting told attendees Tuesday at the Society for Human Resources Management annual conference in Las Vegas. While there’s a lot of opportunity, there’s also a lot of risk. 

The federal government has been steadily releasing guidance on AI on potential discrimination, including Americans with Disabilities Act violations, among other things. And states and municipalities are passing laws on how the technology is used. In legislation that went into effect this year, New York City now regulates how companies can use automated employment decision tools, namely by requiring a bias audit and that candidates and employees are notified beforehand. 

“Everybody’s getting in on this,” Dobbs Bunting said. “There are currently more than 160 bills or regulations related to AI that are pending right now in 34 different state legislatures. There is a huge tsunami coming of state regulation. If you are a multi-state employer, go to God.”

At the same time, lawsuits are cropping up on how AI and machine learning are used in workplaces. A class-action case filed against Workday earlier this year alleged that the software used by the human capital management company acts like an employment agency and has a biased applicant screening algorithm.  

The case, Dobbs Bunting said, is the first major class-action lawsuit against a vendor. 

“This is not going to be the last. This is just the beginning,” she said. 

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