Big Brother or Employee Perk: How a Wisconsin Tech Company is Making 1984 a Reality for Some Employees.
August 4th, 2017 by David Minces
Imagine your work day starts like any other. You get to the office, but when you reach for your key or badge to enter it isn’t there. For some Wisconsin employees, this situation would not induce panic. That is because a Wisconsin-based employer is now offering employees the option of having a microchip implanted in their hand that would allow employees keyless entry onto company property, access to printers and other company technology, and even a way to pay for their breakroom snacks. The Midwest employer, Three Square Market, is the first to offer this option in the United States. A Swedish company made headlines years ago by offering microchips to their employees. According to tech experts soon stories like these won’t be making headlines. The expansion of employee microchips seems inevitable as a growing number of domestic and foreign companies announce their plans to either explore microchipping options or implement them in the near future. There are generally two opinions on this technological advance.
Opinion 1: This is creepy. I don’t want my employer tracking me.
While the companies currently using chip technology liken it to an ID badge because it does not use a GPS to track you, and can only register your scan from a few inches away, for some people that assurance is not enough. In fact, for many the promise that the chip could be used to store medical information, other identifying documents, and additional data in the future make the claim that tracking is not one of the features of the chip less valid.
While people with this view may not have their fears completely assuaged by this, it is important to note that courts have generally held that employees are entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy outside of work, which includes places like their home. Additionally, prolonged usage of tracking in areas that employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy in may qualify as a “search” under the Fourth Amendment. If tracking leads an employer to make a discriminatory determination, for example firing an employee because of medical visits, employees could expect protection under federal employment discrimination laws.
But, if you are still not convinced that a microchip would be helpful for you, you probably have a right to object for medical or religious reasons. Three Square Market is not requiring employees to get the chip, but if they were, some objections would likely still be available to them. A Virginia court ruled in favor of a miner who, in 2015, refused to use a biometric hand scanner to clock in and out. The miner explained that as an Evangelical Christian, he believed the scanning was analogous to the Book of Revelation’s description of the “Mark of the Beast”. The EEOC filed a lawsuit on the man’s behalf and won after a three day trial. The court found that because the man had a sincerely held religious belief that made him unable to use the timekeeping device, the company should have offered an alternative means for him to log his time. An argument against having a chip implanted for medical reasons may also help weary employees avoid compliance if this ever becomes a required condition of employment.
Opinion 2: I think this is helpful and cool! I’m tired of losing my keys or forgetting my computer passwords.
If you are completely onboard with the tech wave, you’re in luck. Chances are more employers will begin to offer microchips in lieu of ID badges. Additionally, companies like Three Square Market are providing the chips and implantation at no charge to employees. The $300 chip could have additional applications that would benefit employees outside of the office, which include payment method storage for shopping and insurance information retention to enable a wallet-less trip to the doctor.
No matter what your stance on the prospect of a microchipped office space, there is no doubt that the future of employee data devices has massive legal implications that extend from discrimination protections to privacy rights. Employers and employees are left with the job of maintaining a delicate balance between convenience and caution.
The near future.
If you want to be a part of Three Square Market’s chip program, you unfortunately missed the chip implant party they had on August 1, where over 40 employees had a tattoo artist implant the chip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, between their thumb and pointer finger. The company is still offering chips to employees who want them at no charge and they are currently hiring for multiple positions. (Don’t be alarmed by the numerous 1-star Google reviews, as the company has amassed many of these over the last week by people citing that much like other biometric identifiers, the chip Three Square Market is using constitutes the “Mark of the Beast.”) But, if you aren’t looking for a new job chances are chipping technology, or something similar will be at an employer near you soon enough. For now, Minces PLLC employees will stick with two classic chips: potato and chocolate.
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