Job interview
Bill establishes standards and authorization to use hiring assessment technologies that proactively remove bias, give employers needed certainty for pursuing alternatives to traditional screening methods that are often biased. Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

California Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) was joined by several community organizations and social justice advocates at Centro CHA in Long Beach as she announced the introduction of Senate Bill (SB) 1241, the Talent Equity for Competitive Hiring Act.

Building on the goals articulated in ACR 125, introduced by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Senator Gonzalez, the TECH Act creates clear standards for employers who want to innovate in hiring by using new technological assessment tools to reduce bias and improve workplace diversity. The legislation is co-authored by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-South Los Angeles), Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), and Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson).

"California has a growing opportunity gap that leaves many families and communities in our state behind," said Senator Gonzalez. "Hiring discrimination plays a significant role in our current inequality. The TECH Act will help ensure access to jobs that offer competitive wages and upward mobility for all our residents."

Countless studies have shown that women and people of color are more likely to be overlooked in hiring, regardless of their talent. A 2017 study found hiring discrimination against black workers in the U.S. has not declined in the last quarter-century – and has declined only slightly for Latino workers. San Francisco's Silicon Valley high tech sector offers a glaring snapshot of disparities in employment opportunity in California: recent figures show that just 3.3% of this workforce is black, 6.6% is Hispanic, and 36.7% are women.

"Simply put, our hiring system is broken," said Jessica Quintana, Executive Director of Centro CHA. "It's 2020, and still - if you are a person of color from a low-income zip code competing against white candidates from higher-income zip codes, it does not matter how hard you worked to get your education or how much talent you could bring to the job -- your demographic reality is likely to keep you out of the running."

New assessment technologies exist that can meet employers' need to gauge candidates' likely success in a particular job. As technology-driven tools, these assessments can be tested for likely bias and modified to fix or remove sections of code that result in adverse impact. But because newer assessment technologies were not in existence or even contemplated at the time federal anti-discrimination rules were adopted in 1978, many in the legal compliance community consider them to fall into a legal gray area.

(SB) 1241 gives employers guidelines and legal certainty to use new hiring assessment technologies that allow them to open talent pipelines and increase workforce diversity. The TECH Act says assessment technologies will be considered in compliance with anti-discrimination rules if: 1) they are pre-tested for bias before being deployed and found not likely to have an adverse impact on the basis of gender, race or ethnicity; 2) outcomes are reviewed annually and show no adverse impact or an improvement of hiring among underrepresented groups, and 3) their use is discontinued if a post-deployment review indicates adverse impact.

"There are many California employers that are genuinely committed to creating more diverse and inclusive workforces," said Julian Canete, President, and CEO of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. "Study after study has demonstrated that diversity is good for business. This legislation offers a badly needed update to decades-old hiring laws that have created legal uncertainty for companies wanting to open up their talent pipelines."

Joining the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce in support of the TECH Act are Centro CHA, the Southeast Community Development Corporation, the Center for Living and Learning, First 5 San Bernardino, and the Los Angeles Regional ReEntry Partnership.

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