In some prior posts here and here, I talked about the development of artificial intelligence tools in the employment law context.
If you’ve been reading the headlines, the latest AI “tool” is a Chatbot titled “ChatGPT”. You can read the latest The New York Times piece about it here.
In this context, it can provide some background about various employment laws and obligations that employers have.
For example, I asked the ChatGPT to provide a short explanation, understandable to a 5th grader on Title VII’s employment law provisions:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers based on certain characteristics, such as race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.
This means that employers are not allowed to treat workers differently because of these characteristics. For example, an employer cannot refuse to hire someone because of their race, or pay them less because of their sex.
Title VII also makes it illegal for employers to harass workers because of these characteristics. This means that employers cannot make offensive comments or jokes about someone’s race or religion, or do anything else that creates a hostile work environment.
In summary, Title VII is a federal law that protects workers from discrimination and harassment based on certain characteristics, such as race and sex. It helps to ensure that all workers are treated fairly and with respect.
But perhaps you’re wondering what the “most important federal laws were that employers needed to know about”. Here’s what it had to say:
There are several federal laws that employers need to be aware of in order to ensure compliance with the law and to protect the rights of their employees. Some of the most important federal laws that employers should know about include:
- The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): This law establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, and other basic labor standards for workers.
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): This law provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: This law prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): This law prohibits discrimination against workers who are 40 years of age or older.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA): This law requires employers to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees.
These are just some of the many federal laws that employers need to be aware of. It is important for employers to stay informed about the latest developments in employment law and to consult with legal counsel if they have any questions or concerns.
Not a bad place to start and probably along the lines of what you could find in a Wikipedia entry.
So I switched gears and posed the question: “Can employers fail to pay an employee’s salary if the employee stole food from it?”
The Chatbot responded in a way that shows the built in limitations associated with a robot but with some nuance as well:
In general, an employer cannot fail to pay an employee’s salary as punishment for stealing food from the workplace. Under most circumstances, failing to pay an employee’s salary would be considered wage theft, which is illegal.
However, an employer may be able to take other disciplinary actions against an employee who has stolen food from the workplace, such as suspending or firing the employee. The specific actions that an employer can take will depend on the circumstances of the theft and the employer’s policies and procedures.
It is important for employers to handle cases of theft in a fair and consistent manner, and to consult with legal counsel if they have any questions or concerns. Failing to pay an employee’s salary as punishment for theft is generally not an appropriate or legal response.
It’s use of the phrase “wage theft” is a notable one since that’s a relative new phrase, and it’s not bad for a AI response. So while AI may not replace attorneys yet, it’s ability to provide some basic information is clearly improving.
In one area though, it may have an advantage. I was thinking about writing a sonnet about employment law. So I asked it just to give me a sonnet about employment law. In five seconds, it produced this:
In days of old, when laws were few and far,
Employment was a contract made with hand,
With little thought to rules that now we’ve planned
To govern all the ways in which we bar
Abuse of power, or treat with unfairness
Those who are in our charge and at our will,
We’ve written laws to balance and to still
The conflicts that can rise in any workplace.
From hiring to firing, and all the stages
In between, the laws of employment guide
Our actions, and ensure that all are treated
With fairness, and with rights that cannot be abridged.
For workers and for employers, these laws
Are our protection, and our common cause.
What Would Shakespeare Think?