Can wearables be used to dole out promotions and bonuses?

While more connected devices are being used in the workplace, labor lawyers are raising red flags about using wearables to award raises or promotions.

As discussed recently in the National Law Review, employers who seek to improve worker productivity through wearable trackers are wading into a legal gray area.

“Using wearable technology to determine bonuses and promotions based on an employee’s productivity, may result in many legal issues,” said the article.

This follows calls from technology pundits that employers must set out clear data collection and use policies when using workplace wearables.

The National Law Review warned that if wearables were used by employers to determine promotions and bonuses it could create problems with federal U.S. laws.

Specifically, it cautioned that wearables being used to provide evidence for advancement and rewards could potentially violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination based on health status and generally forbids employers from inquiring about an employee’s health status,” it said.

Another law which could be violated by using monitoring technology to determine advancement is the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

The National Law Review says monitoring by wearables is problematic because GINA “prohibits employment discrimination based on genetic information and forbids employers from asking about an employee’s genetic information.”

Lastly the article raised concerns about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and its potential jurisdiction over health information generated by wearables. It warns that the HIPAA “establishes standards to protect the privacy of personal health information, which may include information collected by an employer to track employee productivity.”

Wearables will increase productivity…why not promotions?

Nonetheless, it is clear that using wearables to improve employee productivity is a trend that is only likely to increase in the future. The article cites a study by Rackspace that found employees that wore wearable devices in the workplace were 8.5% more productive.

As well as improving employee productivity, wearables are also being increasingly used by employers in wellness programs. These wellness programs are tracking employee activity levels, and often provide incentives for hitting certain fitness targets.

And there is a clear economic motivation for employers to use wearables in wellness programs. Clear evidence is mounting that as wearables encourage healthier employees, is results in lower costs for employee health insurance.

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