Wisconsin Company Microchips its Employees
On August 1, 2017, a Wisconsin company became the first company in the United States to offer its employees microchip implants to log into company computers, use copy machines and even purchase food in the company break room.
The company, Three Square Market, provides technology for kiosks and minimarkets and feels the new technology will add convenience and save valuable employee time. The (RFID) microchips are approximately the size of a grain of rice and are implanted just below the skin between the thumb and forefinger by a syringe. Operating off of electromagnetic fields, the microchips essentially replace employee I.D. badges with the employee’s own hand. While being implanted with the chips is purely voluntary, roughly 50 employees went through with the procedure.
With Three Square Market’s groundbreaking decision comes a number of legal concerns for the employer and other employers who take the same approach.
First and foremost, is the concern that this is an invasion of employee privacy. Fortunately, current microchip technology does not allow for GPS tracking. Employees being microchipped can, at least for the time being, rest assured that their every move is not being recorded. However, considering the microchips will be used to open doors and log into computers, they can essentially create a log of the employee’s whereabouts throughout the work day.
A second concern is for the possible liability for Three Square Market. While employees were only chipped on a voluntary basis, the microchips were purchased by the Company and provided for work purposes. Should a chip malfunction or otherwise injure an employee, the company may be on the hook on a workers’ compensation claim. Worse yet, what if the injury is not covered by Workers Comp? The liability cap provided by Workers Comp won’t be available which means liability could be uncapped if the company is found somehow negligent for whatever injury ensues.
Third, as with any devise containing valuable and confidential information, there is a risk of data breach. Think of it as having your social security card and credit cards under your skin at all times, electronically available for those skilled enough to hack into them. For now, the technology is new enough that the risk of hacking is relatively low, but it likely won’t be long until the hackers overcome this present hurdle.
Lastly, could an employer make this mandatory? Is there a law against that? Would the public allow it? Will this become just one more way Big Brother is watching?
Technology is developing at warp speed. Dick Tracey’s telephone wrist watch now exists (for those of you under 50, you may have to Google this reference). Self-driving cars are on the road and drones deliver packages to your home. Maybe the mandatory microchip is not so far way? Time will tell.
Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with state and federal employment laws. If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203.454.0560.