WASHINGTON—One of the first efforts in the Sen. Bernie Sanders-led Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee will come from Sen. Bob Casey, the senior Democrat from Pennsylvania who will release a bill Thursday to protect everyday workers from spying bosses.
It addresses the needs of employees working remotely even as pandemic restrictions have lifted, but would also guard against spying in the office, Casey told USA TODAY.
“Invasive surveillance is un-American and very, very dangerous in any workplace,” he said.
And there are very few, if any, regulations to address it.
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Are bosses spying on workers?
Numerous reports in the COVID era shined a spotlight on a darker reality of the remote workplace: spying bosses.
For example, a New York Times story in 2021 looked at how bosses use software tools to spy and get workers’ data. The Wall Street Journal wrote in September about how bosses were spying on “quiet quitters,” workers who fulfill minimum requirements with no extra effort or enthusiasm.
This is happening at “a lot of companies,” Dan Mauer, director of government affairs at Communications Workers of America, told USA TODAY.
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CWA recently bargained new work-from-home agreements in 2022 with AT&T and Verizon that establish limited uses for web cameras, requiring them to be used for training coaching, meetings and clean desk inspections.
Mauer sees employer access to webcams as one of the most urgent areas in need of regulations because they have the potential to expose “some of the most private aspects of people’s lives.”
It’s been more of a problem for workers from home, who have more “exposure to a company being able to hear everything and know everything,” he said.
Without collective bargaining agreements, there’s not much recourse for workers without a federal or state framework to protect them.
What will the Stop Spying Bosses Act do?
The bill introduced by Casey on Thursday, with lead sponsors Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and John Fetterman, D-Pa., would:
- Require employers to disclose if they are monitoring employees in a timely and public manner
- Prohibit employers from collecting off-duty data without telling workers
- Create rules around automated technology used in surveillance
- Establish a new Privacy and Technology Division at the Department of Labor, which would regulate workplace surveillance and emerging technologies used.
As to whether his Republican colleagues could see this act as too punitive to employers, Casey said employers already have a lot of power with the at-will law, which he said allows them to terminate employees if it’s not discriminatory or violating a statute.
“It’s time we gave workers a more level playing field,” he said.
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Candy Woodall is a Congress reporter for USA TODAY. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.
Story Credit: usatoday.com