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Ethics, Workers’ Rights Central to Fed’s Employer AI Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Labor has released guidance for employers and developers amid the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence. Several focus on protecting and empowering staff.

robot on left shaking hands with human on right. gray background.
A new set of principles from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) aims to protect workers’ rights and support ethical development and implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace.

The rise of AI is expected to play a significant role in workforce development, with some experts even claiming it may reduce bias in hiring. Still, federal regulation cannot keep up with the rapid pace of AI advancement; its most significant recent step was President Joe Biden’s October executive order on the technology.

The principles unveiled Friday were developed as a result of that order.

The AI Principles for Developers and Employers are: centering worker empowerment; 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; and ensuring the responsible use of worker data.

Notably, these principles apply to all sectors, although the extent to which they apply will likely vary depending upon the industry.

These principles apply to both the development and the deployment of AI systems in the workplace, according to the DOL website. They should be considered for the whole AI life cycle, it said: from design and development through testing, training, deployment, use, oversight and auditing.

“As employers and developers implement these principles, we are determined to create a future where technology serves the needs of people above all,” Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su said in a news release, underscoring the importance of keeping workers “at the heart” of the nation’s AI approach.

These principles do not serve as a complete list, the DOL said, but rather, as a framework to guide businesses. The DOL advises employers to customize the principles to establish context-specific best practices, and suggests employers engage their workers when doing so.

These principles were created with input from workers, unions, researchers, academics, employers, developers and more that was gathered during DOL public listening sessions.