One advantage of the GPS network is you know where you are, wherever you are, even if you don’t know how you got there. Car companies and cell phone providers advertise the ability for parents to keep track of their children’s location through GPS location services. Vendors are providing tracking devices for tools, equipment, and now, employees.
These devices, along with radio-based RFID systems, promise increased productivity, efficiencies, and in some cases, enhanced safety, even with the ability to recognize events such as falls or other indicators of an accident or injury. These are valuable, even noble, purposes – but as we pointed out in our discussion of cell phone use on the job, signatory employers may need to notify the union and/or bargain over the use of these devices by bargaining unit employees.
The law is not fully developed yet, but there have been a few cases on the topic. The one most often cited in regard to tracking of individual employees during work hours is an NLRB case known as Saint Barnabas Medical Center and N.J. Nurses Union. The hospital had implemented a new system to track the location of nurses while on the floor along with the rooms they were assigned to cover. When a patient called for a nurse the system could recognize where the assigned nurse was, whether he or she would be able to answer the call, and whether a second nurse should be sent to attend to the patient.
The nurses union objected, saying that the system’s ability to track an employee’s location could be used to impose discipline. Although the hospital maintained that was not the intent and that system information had not been used to do so, the Administrative Law Judge hearing the case held,
“The determinative factor herein is that the system has the capability, the potential, to do so. I therefore find that the installation of the composer communication system was a mandatory subject of bargaining, requiring prior notice to, or bargaining with, the Union.”
There are also concerns that tracking devices could be used not just for simple discipline, but in situations where a union was trying to organize an employer, to track known union sympathizers and those who might be meeting with them.
Depending on how the employer will use the information provided by the system, there may be a need to negotiate with the union over its use. Some states have also entered the arena. As with cell phones, if your company is looking into the use of employee tracking devices, be sure to confer with your HR and legal professionals and chapter manager.
View Tools & Trouble Part 1 »