With the Arkansas State Legislature’s 92nd General Assembly in full swing, one of the more noteworthy acts passed has been Act 516. Introduced by lead sponsor Representative Stephen Meeks as HB 1177, Act 516 addresses the microchip implantation of employees. In an ever-evolving world fueled by technology, microchip implantation of employees has become a way to assist employers in making their workplace more efficient, productive, and secure.
Microchipping started out as a tool for projects focused on health uses like heart-rate or blood-sugar monitoring. A Fortune magazine article reports that more than 4,000 people in Sweden and other parts of Europe have been “chipped” by a small Swedish startup—Biohax International. See Fortune, Is ‘Biochipping’ a Good Idea, http://fortune.com/longform/biochipping-biohax-microchip/. A report by MarketsandMarkets Research in India estimated that the global biochip market will be worth about $17.75 billion by 2020. See MarketsandMarket Research, Biochips Market Worth $17.75 Billion by 2020, https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/biochips.asp. Making its way overseas, Biohax teamed up with Three Square Market to bring microchipping into the United States’ workplaces. Employees from Three Square Market, a Wisconsin tech company, had small microchips the size of a grain of rice implanted between their thumb and index finger. According to MIT Technology Review, as of last August around 80 of the company’s 250 employees had microchips. See MIT Technology Review, This Company Embeds Microchips in its Employees, and They Love It, https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611884/this-company-embeds-microchips-in-its-employees-and-they-love-it/. The employees are able to enter the workplace, log onto their computers, and get snacks from the vending machine with the wave of a hand.
During Act 516’s domination of the local news cycle when initially introduced, the reporting highlighted the fact that no Arkansas businesses currently use employee microchip implantation. As the chair of the legislature’s Technology Committee, however, Rep. Stephen Meeks set out to be proactive on the issue. He stated, “The idea here is to set the ground rules before the technology comes to our state to protect workers[.]” See Jessi Tenure, 2019 Session: Bill Would Regulate Microchipping Employees in Arkansas, KARK.com (Jan. 22, 2019, 5:47 PM), https://www.kark.com/news/local-news/2019-session-bill-would-regulate-microchipping-employees-in-arkansas/1708706584.
Arkansas now joins California (Cal. Civ. Code § 52.7), Maryland (Md. Code Ann. § 20-1902), Missouri (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 285.035), North Dakota (N.D. Cent. Code § 12.1-15-06), Oklahoma (Okla. Stat. tit. 63, § 1-1430), and Wisconsin (Wis. Stat. § 146.25) as states that are currently regulating microchip implantation. Nevada’s legislature recently introduced a similar bill as well. Act 516 addresses many of the concerns that people have expressed regarding microchip implantation. The Act, among other things, requires employers to:
- gain written consent from employees before microchip implantation;
- have the microchip removed within 30 days of the employee’s request for removal at any time;
- pay all the costs associated with implanting and removing the microchip;
- pay all the medical costs incurred by the employee as a result of any bodily injury to the employee caused by the implantation of the microchip or the presence of the microchip in the employee’s body; and
- disclose to the employee the data that may be maintained on the microchip and how the data that is maintained on the microchip will be used by the employer.
Seemingly acknowledging the growing practice of surveillance in the workplace, the Act concludes by noting that it “does not prohibit an employer from using alternative non-invasive technology that is intended to track the movement of an employee.”
Although no Arkansas businesses are currently using employee microchip implantation, the efficiency and security benefits of microchipping are hard to ignore. Therefore, any employer considering jumping into the world of microchip implantation should approach it carefully. Ensuring compliance with state law, obtaining consent from employees, and being transparent about all aspects of the microchips’ use will help avoid potential legal issues.