The legislation to regulate digital labor platforms is expected to be finalized this month. This is the first law proposed at the European Union level to regulate the use of automated monitoring, evaluation, and decision-making systems.
The platform work directive only covers digital labor platforms. The past few years have seen a rapid increase in the use of algorithmic management in traditional employment relationships.
Warehouse work and call centers are some of the places where minutely controlling, harmful, and well- publicized uses have been found. Warehouse workers have been fired if they don't meet their quota because they don't have time to use the bathroom or use the restroom. In retail and manufacturing, software engineering, marketing, and consulting, and in public-sector work, algorithmic management has been documented.
The human resource professionals refer to these practices as people analytic. The monitoring software that is installed on employees' computers and phones is often referred to as " bossware." It has added a new level of security to work life, including location tracking, keystroke logging, screen captures, and even video and photos taken through the webcams on workers' computers.
There is an emerging position among researchers and policy makers that the platform work directive is not enough, and that the European Union should also develop a directive specifically regulating algorithmic management in the context of traditional employment.
Traditional organizations are using algorithmic management. Improving the speed of information processing is the most obvious benefit. Thousands of applications for a single open position can be received by companies. In some cases, the use of algorithmic management could help improve performance. There are some potential benefits that have not yet been realized. It is possible to reduce bias in hiring, evaluation, and promotion by detecting needs for training or support.
Workers and organizations are at risk of harms and risks. Sometimes the systems are not very good and make wrong decisions. They require a lot of data and are often designed and deployed with little worker input. Sometimes they make biased or otherwise bad management decisions, they cause privacy harms, and they expose organizations to regulatory and public relations risks.
There is a complex regulatory situation in the EU. There are many bodies of law. National systems of labor and employment law, discrimination law, and occupational health and safety law provide some rights to workers and job candidates. There are some things that are missing. While there is an obligation for employers to ensure that data they store about employees and applicants is accurate, there is not an obligation for decision-making systems to make reasonable inferences or decisions based on that data. If a service worker is fired because of a bad customer review but that review was motivated by factors other than the worker's control, the data may be accurate. It is possible that the decision based on it is lawful.
There is a curious contradiction. There is need for more protection. The welter of existing law makes it difficult for organizations to use algorithmic management in a responsible way. The new platform work directive means that platform workers are likely to have more protections against monitoring and error prone algorithmic management than traditional employees.