SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Human resources and technology company Workday is facing a lawsuit from a man who alleges the company’s artificial intelligence tools discriminated against him on the basis of race during his job search, according to court documents filed with the Northern District of California.
The plaintiff in the case is identified as Derek L. Mobley, a graduate of Morehouse College who has worked in the financial services industry for a number of years, according to his attorney. Mobley is a Black man over the age of 40, and he also struggles with depression and anxiety, according to the court filing.
Since 2018, Mobley applied for between 80 and 100 positions at various companies which used Workday’s hiring technology. He says he has been denied employment each time.
“Based on his qualifications and experience he should not have been rejected 80-100 times for jobs in his wheelhouse. That is when he began to expect companies who used Workday as a screening tool for his applications were unlawfully denying him job opportunities,” Mobley’s attorney, Rod Cooks tells KRON4.
Cooks and his business partner, Lee Winston, have a law firm based in Birmingham, Alabama. The pair focuses primarily on employment law, particularly in regards to discrimination cases.
Mobley believes he faced illegal discrimination on the basis of his race, age and his disability, according to the document. The suit argues these are potential violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1866 as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The suit also alleges that Workday’s artificial intelligence systems and screening tools “rely on algorithms and inputs created by humans who often have built-in motivations, conscious and
unconscious, to discriminate.”
Mobley’s attorneys claim that Workday has showcased a “continuous and systemic pattern or practice of discriminatory job screening-which disproportionately disqualifies African-Americans, individuals over the age of 40 and individuals with disabilities.” The suit states this discriminatory practice directly led to Mobley being denied employment.
The court filing also lists class-action allegations against Workday. These aim to include all applicants who are African-American or over the age of 40 who had not been referred or permanently hired for employment since 2019 as a result of Workday’s “challenged” discriminatory screening process.
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This isn’t the first time Workday has faced a claim of discrimination from Mobley. In 2021, Mobley filed a discrimination charge against the company in Oakland with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In November 2021, the EEOC dismissed that claim and gave Mobley Notice of Right to Sue, which allows him 90 days to file a case, according to the court documents.
“While we believe AI can be a helpful tool to businesses as far as their human resource needs, care has to be taken that conscious and/or unconscious biases are not embedded in the screening tools,” Cooks tells KRON4.
KRON4 reached out to Workday for comment on the case, and a spokesperson shared the following statement:
“We believe this lawsuit is without merit. At Workday, we’re committed to responsible AI. Our decisions are guided by our AI ethics principles, which include amplifying human potential, positively impacting society, and championing transparency and fairness.” – Workday