Measure would protect employees’ privacy, provide flexibility for businesses
State Rep. Bronna Kahle, of Adrian, this week testified before the House Commerce and Tourism Committee on her plan to protect the privacy rights of Michigan workers and to promote further growth for job providers as it relates to microchipping – a cutting-edge technology on the rise across the country that increases workplace efficiency.
“In this day and age of increased technology – more than ever – Michigan job providers have the responsibility to balance the interests of the company with their employees’ expectations of privacy,” Kahle said. “As companies across the country are exploring cost-effective ways to increase workplace efficiency, microchipping has been a hot topic in many conversations. While these miniature devices are on the rise, so are the calls of workers to be protected from unwarranted invasions of their personal privacy.”
Radio-frequency identification tags, commonly referred to as microchips, are beginning to seep into the marketplace as new technological devices to help streamline everyday business practices. The chips, roughly the size of a grain of rice, are implanted into the hands of employees and act as a replacement for I.D. badges, timecards, usernames and passwords for security clearance, and even credit cards.
While there are only a few known U.S.-based companies embedding microchips in its employees, several job providers could be following suit soon – including businesses in Michigan.
“While this type of technology hasn’t quite made its way into Michigan, I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a standard business practice statewide within the next few years,” Kahle said. “There’s a fine line between corporate convenience and employee freedoms – it’s never too soon to get ahead of these devices.”
Under Kahle’s plan, Michigan employers would be able utilize microchipping, but could not mandate employees to have such devices implanted. Kahle said the measure strikes a good balance between protecting workers’ rights and providing businesses with flexibility to increase efficiency and further grow.
“This pro-active plan doesn’t prohibit job providers from offering microchips to employees, it installs a framework to protect hard-working Michiganders’ rights by ensuring the practice of microchipping is voluntary,” Kahle said. “To me, that’s a good balance. We’re making sure companies are not conditioning job offers on microchip insertions and that no Michigan worker loses his or her job for refusing one. While it’s important to cultivate an environment for businesses to thrive, we also must be taking appropriate steps to protect and respect the rights of all employees.”
Five states have already outlawed mandatory microchipping for employees, with Indiana being the most recent, Kahle said. Michigan must address this issue head on, and quickly, if it is to be considered a national leader in protecting worker freedoms.