The term “artificial intelligence”, or “AI”, conjures a futuristic image for most people. Despite its futuristic implications, AI has arrived and is here to stay.

In fact, on February 11th President Trump signed an Executive Order called the “American AI Initiative” that aims to increase AI funding, research, access, and quality.  https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2019/02/12/assessing-trumps-artificial-intelligence-executive-order/.  The purpose of this Order is, in part, to allow America to compete with countries like China where AI has been efficiently integrated into its economy.

AI is most affecting Americans in the jobs market. Think about the last time you bought something off Amazon’s website. What used to be a run to the store for clothes, household products, or even groceries is now just a click away on Amazon. Studies predict that 1 in 4 shopping malls in the U.S. could be out of business by 2022. http://time.com/4865957/death-and-life-shopping-mall/. This means that salespeople, greeters, cashiers, janitors, analysts, accountants, advertisers, stockists, and the thousands of other employees within the ecosystem of shopping malls are being replaced by technology.

As an employment law attorney, this has me asking: what does AI mean for employment law? For one, it means that the types of jobs available to humans are shifting. A good example of this playing out is the trucking industry. AI is poised to replace many truck drivers by 2050. A new technology called “Embark” allows individuals from remote call centers to operate driverless trucks on interstates. With this new technology, human truck drivers are only needed to navigate inter-city traffic at the beginning and end of the truck’s journey. https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevebanker/2018/07/05/anyone-employed-as-a-driver-today-will-be-able-to-retire-as-a-driver/#7b07640f50a2. It is possible that these truckers who are losing jobs to technology have a legal claim for wrongful termination.

Under federal and Arizona law, employers cannot terminate an employee based on their age if they are over 40 and replace them with a younger employee. This is considered discrimination based on age. But what if your employer terminates an employee over the age of 40 and replaces them with a robot that is quicker and more accurate? Could that be considered age discrimination?

The answers to these questions will likely play out in courts in the coming years. For now, we will have to wait and see how AI continues its impact on our economy and jobs.

Emma Chalverus is an employment attorney at the law firm of Davis Miles McGuire Gardner, PLLC located in Tempe, Arizona. For more information on Emma, please visit https://www.davismiles.com/attorney/emma-j-chalverus/.