POSTONED The Paradox of Automation as Anti-Bias Intervention

Monday, November 4, 2019 13:00to14:30

This Annie Macdonald Langstaff workshop with Ifeoma Ajunwa, Assistant Professor of Labor and Employment Law at Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School, has been postponed. A new date will be announced as soon as possible.


The conceit of automated decision-making – such as for hiring employees – that removing humans from the decision-making process will also eliminate human bias. The paradox, however, is that in some instances, automated decision-making has served to replicate and amplify bias.

Although problematic features associated with algorithmic decision-making are at odds with the fundamental principle of equal opportunity in employment, this paper contends that the framing of algorithmic bias as a technical problem is misguided. Rather, the problem is that legal frameworks – in the context of an American legal tradition of deference to employers, especially allowing for such nebulous hiring criterion as “cultural fit” – do not take into account the emerging technological capabilities of hiring tools which make it difficult to detect disparate impact.

The paper argues for a re-thinking of legal frameworks that take into account both the liability of employers and those of the makers of algorithmic hiring systems who, as brokers, owe a fiduciary duty of care.

About the speaker

Dr. Ajunwa is an Assistant Professor of Labor and Employment Law at Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School (ILR), an Associate Faculty Member at the Cornell Law School, and a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University. Her research interests are at the intersection of law and technology with a particular focus on the ethical governance of workplace technologies, as well as diversity and inclusion in the labor market and the workplace.

The Workshops

Inaugurated in 1988 in honour of Annie MacDonald Langstaff, BCL 1914, the first woman to earn a law degree in Quebec, the workshops provide a forum for academics, judges, lawyers, and community activists to present scholarly research and practical insights on issues relating to women and the law.

This event is eligible for inclusion as 1.5 hours of continuing legal education as reported by members of the Barreau du Québec.

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