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Posts from Joshua Newville, a Minnesota employment lawyer, civil rights attorney, and mediator.

Combating Age Discrimination in the Gig Economy: Challenges and Opportunities


The gig economy has exploded in recent years, driven both by companies seeking to save money and workers no longer settling for long commutes or the stress of in-person full-time jobs.



gig worker using devices


But with the rise of the gig economy have come concerns about employment discrimination protections for gig workers. We’ll focus specifically on age discrimination in this post.


Artificial Intelligence Could Lead to Age Discrimination Against Gig Workers


News about artificial intelligence, or AI, has dominated social media and mainstream outlets these past nine months. However, businesses have been using AI for years.


Specifically, businesses use AI to make hiring decisions using systems called automated employment decision tools. These tools are supposed to help companies sort through massive amounts of resumes to find qualified candidates quickly.


These systems are now under scrutiny from local, state and federal agencies that are concerned that these AI-based systems contain inherent biases that could lead to discrimination.


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is pursuing at least one major case alleging AI-based age discrimination in hiring gig workers. The EEOC alleges that English-language-learning company iTutorGroup Inc. used an algorithm to automatically reject female candidates over the age of 55 and male candidates over 60. More than 200 workers were automatically disqualified from being hired as tutors because of their age.


While it may be rare for a company to outright direct its AI to disqualify people of certain ages, AI still poses risks. AI is trained with machine learning and attempts to replicate “successful” hiring outcomes based on past data.


So, an AI tool may learn to discriminate against older candidates over time if the company using the AI typically hired younger people in the past.


In April 2023, a first-of-its-kind law took effect in New York City. It requires companies to notify job applicants if an AI tool is being used to screen applications and allow them to request a different selection process.


New York State has since introduced a statewide bill based on the City’s law. Similarly, New Jersey lawmakers have introduced a bill to regulate the sale and use of employment decision tools and would ban them unless certain conditions are met.


Laws like these will be crucial to preventing age discrimination against gig workers. Prevention is key, because laws like the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and other discrimination laws generally do not protect independent contractors.


Gig Work Offers Opportunities for Older Workers


The good news is that gig work could be great for older workers. Unlike traditional job searches that require face-to-face (or video) interviews, freelancers can often get hired without such formalities.


Freelancers can use gig economy websites and online tools to bid on jobs. They can send portfolios of their work rather than send in a resume that might give away their age. These realities help level the playing field for older workers.


Legal Advice for Gig Workers and Businesses Alike


Gig workers need to know their employment rights but may not know where to turn for advice. At my Minneapolis law firm, I advise gig workers about the laws related to independent contractor work and discrimination. I also help businesses understand how these laws work.


Whether you are a gig worker or a business owner, you can always contact my office by scheduling a legal consultation or starting an online case review.


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Joshua Newville is a Minnesota employment lawyer, civil rights attorney, and mediator. Josh litigates and advises on such matters as wrongful termination, whistleblowers, discrimination, police misconduct, and more. He offers legal consultations and online case reviews regarding employment law and civil rights.

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