A group of legal secretaries at a Toronto corporate law firm is rebelling online against a plan that would see them fingerprinted when they come and go at work.
McCague Borlack LLP, a law firm that specializes in banking and insurance litigation, is planning to implement fingerprint reading technology at its offices this month, to address complaints about employees who were taking excessively long lunch breaks or cutting out early from work.
The new system will not apply to the company’s lawyers, only its administrative staff.
“Some people were abusing the system,” founding partner Howard Borlack told the Toronto Star. “We had people taking two to three hours for lunch and we had no way of knowing. . . . Some people were complaining.”
He said the primary purpose of the new system was to improve building security, but being able to track workers is “a huge bonus.”
Employees of the firm have evidently launched a website, called Which Finger to Give to Bay Street, to protest the move.
“Life is good for the lawyers at the firm; their money keeps rolling in at $400/hr. Often at a higher rate! Their secretaries are not so lucky. Secretaries at this firm earn 20 times less than these fancy Bay Street Lawyers. And secretaries are treated with the following degrading contempt: a finger printing program!” the website states.
“I suspect that the vast majority of workers will find forced fingerprinting by their employer to be offensive. Certainly, [I] suspect highly qualified legal secretaries won’t be rushing to come work at this firm now,” York University labour professor David Doorey wrote on his blog.
Doorey notes that fingerprinting workers could violate work contracts if those work contracts stipulate some measure of privacy. But he suggested legal recourse could be sparse for the employees.
“There is no Privacy Act as such in Ontario, as there is some other provinces. My sense is that the more employers screw around with these sorts of practices — including forced fingerprinting and demands for social media passwords — the more momentum will grow for such legislation,” Doorey wrote.
Products to help companies monitor employees have been exploding in recent years. While McCague Borlack will be using a product from Utah-based Qqest, other companies are offering similar products.
Easy Clocking offers a fingerprint time clock as part of an array of biometric worker monitoring solutions. Spector Pro logs all keystrokes on employees’ computers, while Websense Enterprise can block certain websites, set time limits on websites visited, and evaluate how relevant to work websites are.
A recent Supreme Court ruling affirmed that Canadian workers do have a right to expect at least a minimum level of privacy at work. The Court asserted that work computers "contain information that is meaningful, intimate and touching on the user's biographical core."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misspelled York University professor David Doorey's name. The Huffington Post Canada regrets the error.