Wearable Devices and the Workplace

The use and presence of wearable devices in the workplace is on the rise and is expected to increase as new devices and applications are developed and become available. Because such devices are generally more sophisticated than traditional, handheld devices and computers and have the ability to track physiological functions and individual movements and record the surrounding environment, there are clear workplace benefits.  Such devices can enhance workplace safety, aid worker efficiency and improve communications among the workforce as well as with customers and clients. Further, such devices can be used for training, monitoring and recording employee conduct.  

However, an employer should recognize that there are also clear risks and drawbacks to this technology as wearable devices may create safety issues if an employee is in a dangerous job and lead to lost productivity if an employee is more focused on their wearable device than on their job duties and responsibilities. Further, an employee may be able to access inappropriate information and content during working hours. A wearable device may also lead to harassment and invasion of privacy issues among other things because the device permits an individual to record the private conduct of others and access highly personal information (i.e. religion, sexual orientation). If connected to the employer's network, the employer's confidential information and trade secrets are at risk of being compromised.

Because wearable devices can create myriad workplace issues for an employer, it is critical for an employer to develop, implement and enforce a policy addressing the proper use of wearable devices in order to decrease the potential for employer liability.  Lastly, an employer should make sure to actively monitor the use of wearable devices so as to decrease the potential negative effects on the workplace.  An employer should be sure to implement safeguards so as to adequately protect their legitimate business interests in managing and maintaining a safe and secure workplace.

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Employment Law Manual