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Employee flexing muscle on moral grounds

There are traditionally two different power structures in place for businesses. One is a top-down mindset where the owner or the board dictates the work to be done and how long it will take. The other is the bottom-up union or employee approach where the workers or their representatives exert considerable power.

In the era of flat management structures, employees now seem emboldened to confront management on issues, particularly at technology companies were these flat structures are embraced because the innovation, coordination, communication, and speed are a prized part of the business culture.

Taking the lead

The talent pool of these companies are often highly educated, well-paid and have a higher than average number of immigrants in the workforce. These and other factors have led to disagreements with management over the products and services the companies provide to clients. Recent examples include:

  • 300,000 Microsoft employees signed a petition to cancel a contract with ICE
  • Google employees protested the use of artificial intelligence software for target recognition used by military drones
  • After the above issue, Google did not even bother bidding on a Pentagon contract worth up to $10 billion

Facial recognition is the next rallying cry

Employees, scientists, engineers and innovators at these technology companies have learned from past generations about how products can morph from one seemingly innocuous product to something that may cause complaints based on ethical or moral grounds. According to the New York Times, law enforcement’s use of facial recognition software looks to be the next big issue. While this technology is great for using a device without entering a password, there have been examples where law enforcement has used this technology (perhaps unintentionally) to oversteps personal rights, cases of bias or privacy.

Managing a dispute

Leadership and staff may not always see eye to eye on the priorities of a business. In fact, employers may not even be aware of an issue until there are protests, a petition, a letter voicing a concern or some other push back. Large companies generally have protocols for resolving disputes without having to litigate, using either arbitration or mediation, but those concepts can even apply to small or medium-sized companies.

Resolving these disputes is not necessarily about winning. Instead, it is to address the matter while keeping employees happy and productive and the business profitable. Employment law attorneys can provide guidance for effectively resolving these matters in a fair and positive manner, or, if it comes down to it, enforcing contracts that employees sign when there are no other options.

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