Using Biometrics in the Workplace
The advances that have been made over the years with regard to identification technology have led to a number of new introductions to this sector. Whereas pictures were the main means of identification in the past, there are now more accurate ways of ensuring that people are who they claim to be. Though this may have improved the level of security that can be enjoyed by companies and like parties, there are a number of disadvantages such as an increase in privacy invasion that have discouraged people from willingly offering the needed details for these new measures.
Why would a Company Require this Information?
There are a number of reasons that many companies have turned to these new forms of identification for their employees. Some of the main motivators include the need for a more accurate tracking system with regard to the hours put in by their workers. Given the chance, some employees may be tempted to record false hours in a bid to rise the pay owed to them and this could have an adverse effect on a business’ finances.
The issue of overtime also comes into play in this regard. In some cases, it may be difficult for a company to confirm the amount of additional hours claimed by the employee. The new tech that is used today has reduced the potential for errors when it comes to calculating overtime. It also provides a more efficient method of determining the exact time owed to the employee.
The use of new tracking devices and identification has also made it easier for companies to control the traffic within sensitive sectors of the workplace. Some companies may work with the need to restrict certain parts of the company due to sensitive information and/or material that is located in those parts. The new tech allows companies to keep track of the people who may be in these areas at any given time, as well as restrict access to others.
Tracking systems also enable employers to note the location of mobile assets such as vehicles through the use of GPS. This has reduced the chances of such commodities being subjected to theft. This can be essential, especially when the assets in question hold a high financial/technical value.
Though GPS systems have been accused of being overly invasive by some parties, they have slowly been gaining acceptance as the parties involved begin to realize the benefits offered by this form of tracking. The systems are set in place with the knowledge of the employees involved, and thus it cannot be said to be a means of spying on the privacy of workers.
Biometric locks are steadily gaining popularity in the workplace as it has eased the control of access to restricted areas. It also enables employers to track the activities that take place within these areas as well as identify the individuals behind these actions. The enhanced security that can be enjoyed from these systems have allowed companies to protect their assets from any potential danger.
The introduction of biometric screening has also been encouraged by the development of the Affordable Care Act. This allows employers to hand notices to their workers with regard to this free process, and there have been rumors that this screening might be mandatory in most workplaces in the near future.
Though these rumors might not be very welcome by those keen on protecting their privacy, the need for these new measures cannot be ignored. The threat of information and asset theft has increased with the continued advancement of technology, and as such companies are not able to protect their assets using traditional methods. This means that increased levels of information such as an employee’s biometric data will be needed. The main worry of those who are resisting this change has to do with the safety of the information provided. Needless to say, this kind of information can be classified as sensitive and could be misappropriated in the wrong hands.
Could an Employee Refuse to Submit to these New Measures?
As would be expected there have been a number of people who are not so pleased with the introduction of the new security measures that have been implemented by some employers. A good example of this would be the reaction that Bloomberg received from some corners with regard to the implementation of biometric tracking of their employees. A large number of workers argued against this invasion of their privacy, but the final majority opinion within the city was positive as most welcomed the efficiency of the system.
The contention by some workers towards biometric systems has thus raised the question of what the potential repercussions could be for those who simply refuse to comply with these new measures. This is an essential question as one should be aware of any risk involved with their refusal so as to make an informed decision. The query also raises a related question with regard to what a company should do when they come across such resistance.
An employer is able to terminate a worker’s contract within the provisions of the law according to the employment-at-will memorandum. This means that an individual could actually get fired for refusing to comply with the additional biometric measures unless they are able to find a legislation that supports their abstinence. This also has the potential of souring employer – employee relationships and thus should be approached with caution by both parties.
This being said, there are a few instances that prove that the law exists to protect the rights of both parties involved when it comes to the provision of sensitive data. In a case where some companies had started collecting passwords to people’s social media accounts for example, a law in a majority of states was quickly set in place to protect them from such invasion of privacy. Similar results were seen when some employers tried to involve social security numbers in the process of identification and access provision.
Countries such as Canada and some states in the U.S. require any employer using the biometric details of their employees to ensure that such information is adequately protected or suffer the consequences. In New York, an employer is not allowed to collect the fingerprints of their employees unless specifically required by the law. Legislation in this sector continues to develop and individuals can use these as a means of resisting the biometric requirements that have been set by some companies should they feel the need to.
Alternative Legal Approaches
As mentioned earlier, the legal system is designed to protect the interests of both the employer and the employer without showing any favoritism. There are a number of theories that one can try to put into play should they feel the need to resist the requirement for biometric details by their employer.
Workers can use the federal and state laws that protect against discrimination in the workplace to make a case for themselves. These legislations have been used by workers who were resistant to having their photographs stored by their employers. It is always wise to have the law on a person’s side should they want to go against the wishes of their employer to increase their protection from risks such as termination. Using this route would mean the individual will have to adequate research on the various laws and legislations that can assist them in putting their point across.
A case in point of such an approach can be found in the lawsuit that was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, on the behalf of an employee for Consol Energy Inc, as well as the Consolidation Coal Company. In this case, the employee in question did not want to provide a hand scan to the company despite the fact that the employer wanted to introduce this biometric detail to their time keeping efforts.
The employee (of Christian faith) stated that his religious beliefs prevented him from complying with the new measures as he related the scan to “the mark of the beast”, something that was to be avoided by followers of his religion. This led him to request for a different means of tracking his work hours, and the company’s refusal resulted to the lawsuit in question.
Such a case should serve as a warning to employers when it comes to the implementation of biometric systems and the potential resistance they might meet. No company would want to go through the process of dealing with a lawsuit, as this is something that requires time and finances that could be better utilized elsewhere.
How do Biometric Systems Function?
Before one decides whether they are for or against the biometric systems that could potentially be put in place at the workplace, it is essential for them to understand how these systems function. This better grasp of the system will help them come to an informed decision based on their views after all the facts have been laid bare.
The main aim of a hand scan is to identify an employee using their hand as a form of biological identification. The geometrical details of an individual’s hand is initially captured by the system and stored in connection with the employee to be used for their identification at a later date. This is done using a camera set in the system that photographs the employee’s hand and notes various details such as length, curvature, thickness and width.
The basics of these functions are similar to other types of scanners such as fingerprint and iris related devices. The overall function of such scanners is the identification of specific individuals, via the details that can be found in the particular part of the body that is being scanned.
This allows for a more accurate identification process as no one person is able to have the same biometric details as another individual. This reduces cases such as workers having their colleague clock in or out on their behalf and allows the company to keep a better track of the hours worked by employees.
It should be noted that current biometric designs are susceptible to a few flaws and still need to work a few kinks out of the system before they can be considered to be absolutely precise. The scanners may not work for example, if an individual suffers a type of trauma to the area being scanned. A worker cutting their hand may lead to the biometric system failing to identify them, as a result a result of a change in the initial dimensions that were recorded by the device.
Applicable Employer Advice
Companies that may be considering implementing the use of biometric systems in the workplace will need to be careful with regard to how they approach the matter. There are a number of issues that should be addressed during the process in a bid to make the process as trouble free as possible. Some of these include:
- Make a point of notifying all employees in written form of the intended switch to biometric systems beforehand. All needed information such as the details involved, the reason behind the move and the safeguards that will be initiated should be included in this notification. A means through which the employees can address any further queries they may have should also be provided.
- Conduct adequate research on the various laws that could govern this process with regard to privacy and any other related matters so as not to be blindsided by any potential legislative complications.
- Ensure that all biometric information is safely stored and protected from any potential compromise by individuals with ill intent.
- Ensure any existing union is also informed of the company’s intention to use biometric systems. This will allow the employer to work out any potential issues that may arise from this sector in good time.
- Leave room for any potential accommodation that may have to be provided for individuals who resist this change and are protected by law in their claims.