The Invisible Web of Work: The Intertwining of A-I, Electronic Surveillance, and Labor Law

54 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2019 Last revised: 30 Jun 2019

See all articles by Richard A. Bales

Richard A. Bales

Ohio Northern University - Pettit College of Law

Katherine V.W. Stone

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Date Written: 2019

Abstract

Employers and others who hire or engage workers to perform services use a dizzying array of electronic mechanisms to make personnel decisions about hiring, worker evaluation, compensation, discipline, and retention. These electronic mechanisms include electronic trackers, surveillance cameras, metabolism monitors, wearable biological measuring devices, and implantable technology. These tools enable employers to record their workers’ every movement, listen in on their conversations, measure minute aspects of performance, and detect oppositional organizing activities. The data collected is transformed by means of artificial intelligence (A-I) algorithms into a permanent electronic resume that can identify and predict an individual’s performance as well as their work ethic, personality, union proclivity, employer loyalty, and future health care costs. The electronic resume produced by A-I will accompany workers from job to job as they move around the boundaryless workplace. Thus A-I and electronic monitoring produce an invisible electronic web that threatens to invade worker privacy, deter unionization, enable subtle forms of employer blackballing, exacerbate employment discrimination, render unions ineffective, and obliterate the protections of the labor laws.

This article describes the many ways A-I is being used in the workplace and how its use is transforming the practices of hiring, evaluating, compensating, controlling, and dismissing workers. It then focuses on four areas of law in which A-I threatens to undermine worker protections: anti-discrimination law, privacy law, antitrust law, and labor law. Finally, this article maps out an agenda for future law reform and research.

Keywords: employment law, labor law, artificial intelligence

Suggested Citation

Bales, Richard A. and Stone, Katherine Van Wezel, The Invisible Web of Work: The Intertwining of A-I, Electronic Surveillance, and Labor Law (2019). 41 Berkeley Journal of Labor and Employment Law 1 (2020, Forthcoming); UCLA School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 19-18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3410655

Richard A. Bales

Ohio Northern University - Pettit College of Law ( email )

525 South Main Street
Ada, OH 45810
United States
419-772-2205 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.onu.edu/node/3073

Katherine Van Wezel Stone (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

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