It’s been nearly two weeks since a Wisconsin company made the announcement that it would be implanting tiny microchips into the palms of willing employees. The chips, about the size of a grain of rice, will allow workers to unlock doors, access copy machines, and purchase food in the office. Cue colossal amounts of news coverage, think pieces on the future of technology, and general trepidation. Some even think the chips signal the apocalypse.
Doomsday prophets aside, perhaps nobody was quite as spooked by the news as local lawmaker Tina Davis (D-Bucks), who has since introduced what she calls the Employee Subdermal-Microchip Protection Act. The bill would prevent private employers and government entities from making microchip implants mandatory, and would protect workers in Pennsylvania from any sort of consequences or backlash if they someday refuse a chip offered by employers.
“An employee’s body is their own and they should have the final say as to what will be added to it. My bill will protect employees from being punished or retaliated against for choosing not to have the subdermal microchip or other technological device implanted,” Davis, who co-owns a trucking company with her husband, told Lehigh Valley paper The Morning Call. “As technology advances, we need to make sure we provide employee protections that keep up with these advances and do not allow employers to have control over their employees’ bodies.”
Davis’ proposal isn’t the first of its kind nationally. California, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin have already passed microchip protection laws. Although the radio frequency identification technology used for the chips gained FDA approval back in 2004, the use of surgically implanted chips in the workplace have raised countless questions about workplace ethics.
Three Square Market, the Wisconsin company that made headlines, published reports showing that 41 of their 85 employees chose to receive the implant.
James A. Craft, a professor emeritus of business administration at the University of Pittsburgh’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, expressed his concern about microchip implants to The Morning Call. Even Davis’ proposal, he feels, which would ensure that the Department of Labor & Industry looks into claims made by workers who feel they’re mistreated after refusing chips, might not be of much help to employees under intense pressure to agree to the implants.
“You may not get an immediate discharge,” Craft told The Morning Call, “But how is it going to affect you in the future? So there is concern that you agree to the chip but are not willing to get it.”
And although the chips used by Three Square Market have no GPS capabilities, it isn’t clear what sorts of insights and employee information an employer can take away from the chips in the future.
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