To protect low-wage workers from invasive digital surveillance that follows them home, Congress needs to adopt a comprehensive framework that protects both worker and consumer data. In the absence of such Congressional action, regulatory action such as the FTC’s advanced notice of proposed rulemaking and the National Labor Relations Board’s recent focus on surveillance can be used to improve the situation. Finally, labor law doctrines should venture even further to address the impacts of surveillance: for instance, the NLRB should hold that evidence of surveillance is an essential term or condition of employment for determining whether two companies are a worker’s joint employer under its newly proposed joint employer rule.
The prevailing joint employer standard requires a showing of greater control than state-based corporate law requires when applying traditional concepts of agency law to parent-subsidiary and franchisor-franchisee relationships. As a result, the current standard leaves millions of workers without meaningful collective bargaining rights because companies that “call the shots” avoid getting called to the bargaining table. Thankfully, this past week, the Board issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that signals the NLRB’s desire to return to a more protective standard.