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White House Seeks Input on Workplace Surveillance

Earlier this month, the Biden administration issued a Request for Information on employer use of automated tools for workplace monitoring. The RFI is an initial step towards potential new regulation of worker surveillance and monitoring tools, especially those incorporating AI. The White House joins several federal agencies in increasing its focus on workplace surveillance and employer use of automated systems in general. 

Linking performance tracking to employee mental health, worker organizing, discrimination: The RFI claims that “the constant tracking of performance can push workers to move too fast on the job, posing risks to their safety and mental health.” Further, it states “monitoring conversations can deter workers from exercising their rights to organize and bargain with their employers.” Finally, the RFI asserts that automated surveillance can result in discrimination. It is clear from the RFI that the administration views workplace monitoring, particularly through the use of AI tools, as potentially creating a variety of negative outcomes for employees. 

The link to worker organizing and collective bargaining is unsurprising given the Biden administration’s focus on worker empowerment and increasing union density. NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo issued a memo last year on how, in her opinion, employers can run afoul of federal labor law when using automated systems to conduct workplace monitoring.

Federal focus on AI, workplace monitoringThe RFI is the latest activity from the Biden administration on employer uses of AI and workplace monitoring. Earlier this month, the Commerce Department issued an RFI on potential regulation of AI tools in general. Meanwhile, earlier this year, the FTC and the EEOC both took initial steps towards regulation of the uses of AI.

Outlook: As the use of automated systems in workplace management and employment decision-making has exploded over the last five years, regulators are seemingly catching up. HR Policy will weigh in on the White House’s RFI to provide the necessary employer perspective on responsible and reasonable uses of automated systems in the workplace. Meanwhile, we are holding a webinar on June 26 to discuss the HR implications of AI. Dr. Travis Hall, a Commerce Department Official, will join us in a discussion with experts and CHROs. 

Published on: May 12, 2023

Authors: Gregory Hoff

Topics: Employee Relations, Employment Law, People and Culture, Technology

Gregory Hoff

Associate Counsel, HR Policy Association

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Contact Gregory Hoff LinkedIn

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