Protecting Workers

California has joined Wisconsin and North Dakota in banning forced RFID implants by employers, but does the law go far enough?
Published: October 22, 2007

California has passed a law prohibiting an employer from forcing a worker to get an RFID implant, joining Wisconsin and North Dakota as the only states in the Union to take such a measure (see Wisconsin Governor Signs ‘Chip Implant’ Bill and RFID News Roundup: California Bans Forced Human Tagging). My first thought was to lampoon these legislators for focusing on such a non-issue when there are far more important concerns they should instead be addressing, but then I decided a more serious approach might be better.

If there actually were employers that wanted to force their staff to get implants, I would certainly support a law banning such a practice. But I haven’t heard that there are—it’s mind-boggling, in fact, to think any employer would even consider it—so the question is, why pass a law protecting people from a threat that doesn’t exist now and isn’t likely to in the future?

Pure politics? I doubt this would win anyone any votes. Appeasing anti-RFID groups? Perhaps…but they are a very small minority, and people on both the far right and far left oppose the technology, so it isn’t even a case of pandering to one’s base.

This one leaves me scratching my head. I mean, if you are going to pass a law preventing employers from doing things they are not actually contemplating doing in the first place, why stop with RFID implants? Why not pass another law prohibiting companies from forcing workers to get bar codes or numeric serial numbers tattooed on their arms? Why not a law stopping employers from forcing them to wear GPS bracelets, like the one Martha Stewart made fashionable? And what about a law banning firms from requiring their workforce to install GPS tracking devices in their cars?

The fact is, even if an employer were to require its staff to get RFID implants (for what purpose, God only knows), and if an employee were to refuse (as he/she well should), and if that employee were then fired, it is extremely difficult to believe that person would not win a wrongful dismissal suit. So ultimately, the California law achieves nothing, other than demonizing a technology likely to deliver huge benefits to the people of California and help revitalize the state’s technology sector.