Social Media Employment Law

An Apple A Day Keeps Employers Awake

Bloomberg just reported last week that the Apple Watch “is eroding demand for traditional timepieces.” That’s not just a bad sign for watch retailers, but for employers who continue to have to keep up with the ever-shrinking fine line between legitimate management of employees in the workplace and inappropriate discipline for lawful activity. For those returning from vacation since 2005, wearable technology is clothing and accessories that contain computing and other electronic capabilities. It could be the watch on the employee’s arm, or the glasses, ear piece or head/wrist band that makes up one’s attire in the office.

Together with Google Glass and other wearable technology that has entered and will enter society, this is not simply a tech fad that is going away any time soon. As Forbes also put the truism: “the end result is that technology arguably permeates every area of life.” To employees, work and the workplace is little more than an extension of (personal) life. So, while a healthy dose of fruit is good for everyone’s daily consumption, it’s time for employers to get juiced up about Apple and the others coming into their markets.

Employer Take Away:   What should you as an employer take away from this development? 

Here are the top 5 issues you need to consider when it comes to employee use of wearable technology:

  1. It is easier for employees to make video and audio recordings of sensitive areas in the workplace. Wearable technology is not as simple (or as obvious) as whipping out a camera or smart phone, holding it up, and uttering “cheese.” As those devoted readers of this blog know, the NLRB maintains a strong position on what can and cannot be prohibited, and where.
  2. In a similar vein, employees are better equipped with smaller, less obvious devices to utilize and disclose (intentionally or inadvertently) your company’s trade secrets and other proprietary information. Non-disclosure agreements and policies should unquestionably refer to more than the “traditional” ways of obtaining, using, and disclosing such information.
  3. Employees might be more apt to engage in harassing or violent behavior in the workplace with technology that allows for surreptitious recording of co-workers in private areas of a facility, or the use of the wearables to otherwise obtain or depict inappropriate things. Written workplace policies and manuals should similarly be updated to incorporate today’s realities.
  4. Wearable technology allows users to track their own fitness and other health-related statistics. In addition to the wellness program concerns that have come up recently for employers, it is imperative to understand GINA and other limits on your company’s ability to inquire about and use this information.
  5. Productivity can certainly take a hit with employees having yet another device, and all of its apps, to play with. And, speaking of apps, you might be wise to remember that employees have all kinds of new ways to use their portable and wearable technologies to track their working hours and compensation owed, as well as a facility’s air quality and other OSHA-interested conditions in the workplace.

Have you thought about these issues with respect to your company?

Do your current policies and practices reflect that?

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