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EEOC Asserts Tutoring Company’s AI Discriminates

Three integrated companies operating together as iTutorGroup Inc. (iTutor) created an English-learning platform that matches English-speaking tutors with Chinese students. The platform uses an automated algorithm to assist with some aspects of the hiring process. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) believes the algorithm results in age discrimination by excluding women over the age of 55 and men over the age of 60 as potential tutors. 

The company, headquartered in Shanghai, China., asserts on its website that it uses “big data analytics” and an “advanced matching algorithm” to find tutors for each student. The EEOC states the company has hired thousands of tutors in the U.S. to provide online tutoring, but the automated process has rejected over 200 qualified applicants based on their age. The EEOC filed suit alleging violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC Chair said, “Age discrimination is unjust and unlawful. Even when technology automates the discrimination, the employer is still responsible.” With iTutor based in China, the EEOC will argue that fully remote workers providing services to clients overseas may have protection under U.S. anti-discrimination laws. In its lawsuit against iTutor, the agency is seeking back pay and liquidated damages for the applicants denied employment at iTutor.

The EEOC launched an Artificial Intelligence and Algorithm Fairness Initiative in October 2021. The goal is to ensure that employers using AI and other similar tools in hiring and other employment decisions comply with federal civil rights laws. The EEOC is concerned that these tools mask and perpetuate bias. The EEOC and Department of Justice recently announced their specific concern that AI may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.