DOL Urges Businesses to Involve Employees When Using AI in the Workplace

Author: Michael Cardman, Brightmine Senior Legal Editor

May 16, 2024

Making good on a directive issued by President Biden last year, the US Department of Labor (DOL) has published a set of principles it says employers and developers should apply when using artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace.

The DOL said it developed its Artificial Intelligence and Worker Well-being: Principles for Developers and Employers with input from workers, unions, researchers, academics, employers and developers, among others, and through public listening sessions.

The primary principle is "Centering Worker Empowerment":

Workers and their representatives, especially those from underserved communities, should be informed of and have genuine input in the design, development, testing, training, use, and oversight of AI systems for use in the workplace.

Other principles include:

  • Ethically Developing AI
  • Establishing AI Governance and Human Oversight
  • Ensuring Transparency in AI Use
  • Protecting Labor and Employment Rights
  • Using AI to Enable Workers
  • Supporting Workers Impacted by AI
  • Ensuring Responsible Use of Worker Data

It remains unclear to what extent these principles will carry any regulatory force. Asked about this, a DOL spokesperson told Brightmine, "They are guidelines for employers to recruit and retain talent given the evolving landscape of AI."

The principles build on earlier steps the government has taken to address issues around AI, machine learning and related technologies. Last year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Department of Justice, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission released a joint statement that detailed a coordinated approach among the agencies to addressing bias and discrimination in automated systems. The EEOC's strategic enforcement plan for fiscal years 2024-28 also identifies AI and algorithmic discrimination as a focus area for its enforcement efforts, and the agency has published a number of resources offering guidance on how employment discrimination laws apply to the use of AI in various contexts.