Listen to this story
Medical information technology service Cerner Corporation and the U.S. Department of Labor have reached an agreement deal after the department accused the company of racial discrimination.
According to a press release by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Cerner Corporation will be voluntarily paying $1.8 million as part of a conciliation agreement with the department after the company was accused of being discriminatory towards Black and Asian job applicants.
The $1.8 million payment will be given with interest to over 1,800 applicants who were denied job opportunities between 2015 and 2019 despite being qualified for them. During a routine review, the office found that these applicants were being rejected at higher rates from five main facilities in Missouri and Kansas for jobs such as system engineers, software interns, technical solution analysts and medical billing account specialists.
Although they continue to refute the U.S. Department of Labor’s allegation of racism, Cerner Corporation has also agreed to look more closely into hiring practices across their facilities and ensure that no one is discriminated against in the hiring process.
“Working together, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Cerner Corp. will ensure that the issues identified in this compliance evaluation are resolved and that Cerner puts into place procedures to ensure compliance with equal employment opportunity laws,” said Carmen Navarro, the regional director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, in a statement.
The claims of discrimination by Cerner Corporation come amidst concerns about increased racial bias as more companies include artificial intelligence specifically as part of their job hiring process.
In a 2021 study titled “The Elephant in AI,” Prof. Rangita de Silva de Alwis, the creator of the AI & Implicit Bias Lab at the University of Pennsylvania’s Carey Law School, looked more closely into the way that AI-powered employment platforms help perpetuate anti-Black sentiments.
Looking at the answers of 87 Black students and professionals, Dr. de Silva de Alwis found that 30% of the respondents were referred to jobs that required lower skills than they held and 49% said that they were given job alerts based on their identities and not whether they were qualified for it. About 63% of the respondents also said that they were associated with a lower academic level than the one they held.
To combat this issue, Dr. de Silva de Alwis and her researchers suggested that companies be more honest.
“The use of AI in hiring can be useful for mitigating bias, but also allows many biases to go unnoticed in the complex decision-making pathways used by AI,” said Dr. de Silva de Alwis in her report.
“Transparency in these decision networks will allow for candidates and auditors to clearly understand what biases are present in hiring systems.”