Workplace Biometric Technology Outpacing the Law

Whether they’re clocking in to work, trying to enter a secure room or driving a company car, many workers are finding that the procedures for these everyday workplace occurrences are changing.

To improve efficiency, combat fraud, and boost employee health and safety, employers increasingly are adopting biometric devices.

Biometric technology analyzes the unique characteristics of a person through his or her fingerprints, irises, retinas, hand geometry, facial patterns, voice patterns or DNA information.

“There really has been an incredibly rapid change in workplace technology,” said Robin Samuel, a Los Angeles employment attorney at Hogan Lovells.

Our fingerprints, our eyes, our voices, our DNA—they’re all a part of what makes us uniquely us. That’s why this technology is so valuable for companies, but it’s also why some people harbor privacy and security worries.

And as companies increasingly use these devices, the law hasn’t kept up. Samuel said that existing laws and regulations don’t fit neatly with new workplace technology, which includes biometrics. Thus, employers should be proactive about explaining how the technology works and addressing any privacy concerns of employees.

Uses of Biometric Technology

Biometric devices automatically confirm people’s identity by comparing physical characteristics or behavioral patterns to computer records, according to the website of the International Biometrics & Identification Association.

Employers potentially have many uses for biometric technology. These include tracking hours worked, maintaining security, and promoting health and safety, said Los Angeles employment attorney Robert Orozco of Ford & Harrison.

“Biometrics are becoming more and more prevalent in the workplace,” Orozco said.

For tracking hours, biometric time clocks have become common. These devices are being adopted in many different industries that employ nonexempt workers, Samuel said. These worksites include factories, coal mines, construction sites and even bakeries, he added.


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