Collective Action, Legislation, and Creative Litigation at the Intersection of Geospatial Data & Workers’ Rights
ABA Journal of Labor & Employment Law
18 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2021 Last revised: 15 Nov 2021
Date Written: June 4, 2021
“Geospatial data” is a term familiar to most geographers, but much less familiar to most attorneys, employment law scholars, and workers’ rights activists. In this article, we explain what geospatial data is and provides examples of the types of geospatial technology being used by employers to track their employees, including GPS, RFID, and microchipping implants. We illuminate the various ways that unionization protects employees from misuse of geospatial data, such as providing the right to bargain over implementation of new surveillance technologies and protection to be disciplined based on geospatial data only for cause. Examples of contractual provisions, such as those in the Teamsters and UPS collective bargaining agreement and professional sports’ contracts, that establish joint decision-making processes over the use of geospatial technology are identified. We illustrate state laws that protect against misuse of geospatial technology, such as laws prohibiting microchipping, regulating tracking devices, requiring notice before an employer monitors an employee, and prohibiting termination because of lawful off-duty conduct. We provide examples of cases brought in tort for invasion of privacy and under the Fourth Amendment for unlawful search by employees whose employers were tracking them during their personal time. We offer tools for self and community education for those interested in expanding legal protections from employer misuse of geospatial data and conclude that laws that strengthen workers’ rights organizations, such as unions, workers’ centers, worker-owned cooperatives, and mutuals, aid workers’ abilities to successfully address surveillance and the use of geospatial data by employers.
Keywords: geospatial data, surveillance, tracking, microchip, GPS, RFID, workplace technology, employer monitoring, privacy, employment, litigation, unions, unionization, just cause
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