Making Artificial Intelligence Work for Workers

On Oct. 30, President Biden issued a landmark Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence. This executive order advances the Biden-Harris administration’s comprehensive strategy for governing the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI) safely and responsibly. A key component of that strategy – especially for us at the Department of Labor – is the commitment to supporting our nation’s workers.

This commitment involves ensuring that workers not only benefit from AI’s opportunities, such as new jobs and improved job quality, but are also protected from its dangers, including job displacement, discrimination, the undermining of workers’ rights and worsening job quality.

AI, like other technological advancements, will transform the way that many of us work. It holds enormous potential both to enhance opportunity and prosperity for workers and to exacerbate inequity, bias and job displacement. The Department of Labor is dedicated to ensuring that workers have a voice in the responsible development and use of AI in the workplace, in order to expand opportunities and mitigate harm.

The scope of AI use in the workplace, both now and in the future, is expansive and dynamic. AI encompasses machine-based systems capable of learning human-like tasks, such as making predictions, recommendations or decisions. It can track workers, measure and predict their output, set performance goals, and recommend performance-based rewards or sanctions. AI systems can also process job applications, assess qualifications and identify top candidates for an HR professional.

Generative AI capable of creating original content can, for example, draft new emails to clients based on previous exchanges, provide enhanced support to customer service agents and write new software code. While these examples demonstrate AI’s potential to increase workers’ productivity and efficiency, this technology also poses risks of deteriorating job quality, embedding bias or replacing workers altogether.

Under Acting Secretary Julie Su’s leadership, the Labor Department has committed to ensuring that AI, in any workplace, must be developed and used responsibly to improve workers’ lives, positively augment human work and help all people safely enjoy the benefits of technological innovation. That is why the department is developing principles and best practices for employers and AI developers that can be used to mitigate AI’s potential harms to employees’ well-being and maximize its potential benefits.

The DoL is holding virtual AI listening sessions where employers, unions, worker advocates, and researchers can share their thoughts. Sessions will be held on Dec. 13, 14, and 15 and will cover the following topics:

  • Job-displacement risks and career opportunities related to AI.
  • Labor standards and job quality implications of AI in the workplace, including those related to equity, protected-activity, compensation, and health and safety.
  • Implications of employers using AI to collect data on workers, including issues such as data privacy, ownership and transparency.

This blog originally appeared on the Department of Labor’s website on Dec. 4, 2023.

About the Author: Muneer Ahmad is senior counsel to the secretary at the U.S. Department of Labor.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.