Employees of Three Square Market, a Wisconsin-based tech company, recently became one of the first in the world to receive a microchip implant in their hand in order to replace their company security and identity cards. With the main point of the $300 chips being convenience, they allow employees to check into work, log onto computers, open secure doors and buy company food and drink – all using radio-frequency identification technology.
What moral, practical and legal implications should employers consider before using implanted microchips?
It seems that Three Square Market is taking a lead from Sweden in the number of companies that are pioneering the employee microchip movement. For those others considering implementing this new digital frontier in the workplace, employers should tread very carefully as there are several important things to consider before taking on this new technology.
- Employees would have to fully and freely consent to having microchips implanted – and be able to withdraw consent at any time. If not, employers could be looking at criminal assault charges.
- An employee instructed (or who felt pressured) to comply could potentially resign – claiming constructive dismissal.
- Any monitoring would have to be ‘proportionate’ – under the data protection and human rights legislative regime – and employers would be required to conduct a careful impact assessment before introducing this kind of technology.
- Religious or other personal beliefs could prohibit the implantation of microchips in some employees – leading to potential unlawful discrimination cases.
- There is also the issue of workplace personal injury. Consider the ramifications if the chip was negligently implanted, or caused infection. Employers would be liable here.
- The arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation in May 2018 is extremely relevant too. Any employers considering the move should consider asking employees to sign a statement declaring their decision has been informed and that their consent is free.
What happens when employees leave the company?
Employees don’t tend to stay with just the one company their whole life, so what happens to the chip when they leave? Can the employer or employee demand the removal of the chip from the employee’s body and what happens if the employee doesn’t consent and they are still able to access the building or important confidential business information?
What does the future hold for the microchip?
Despite microchipping still being at the very early stages of development, both from a tech and moral perspective, its growth in this field is probably inevitable. Millennials especially will be able to embrace this technology better than other generations.
Although some may argue that physically implanting a chip into an individual is seen as crossing a significant (moral, political and legal) threshold, it is still highly possible that one day they will be regarded as fairly normal.