The Future of Employee Rights in the Age of Automation - Bantle & Levy LLP



The Future of Employee Rights in the Age of Automation

Whether you work in manufacturing, accounting, banking, or retail, you can see and feel the effect of automation in the workplace. Automation has reshaped industries, economies, and societies and will continue to do so in the future. According to Statista, the global industrial automation market was worth $175 billion in 2020 and will reach roughly $265 billion by 2025.

No one can deny the role of automation in economic growth, productivity gains, and market competitiveness. But the ever-increasing automation isn’t without its issues. When it comes to employee rights, automation in the workplace can be particularly challenging. With every step towards automation, we also need to consider its implications on job roles, employment dynamics, and the very nature of work itself. In other words, we have to think about not just New York state employee rights today, but the rights of employees in the distant future as well.

The Rise of Automation

The foundation of automation was laid when the first industrial revolution began in the late 17th century. But in recent years, automation technologies have experienced an unprecedented surge. Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and robotics have made great strides in virtually every sector, from manufacturing and logistics to customer service and data analysis.

On the surface, it appears to come with a few unique benefits:

  • Increased Efficiency: Automation streamlines processes and boosts overall operational efficiency.
  • Reduced Errors: It minimizes the likelihood of human errors, thus improving accuracy.
  • Cost Savings: It optimizes resources and minimizes waste, which leads to long-term cost savings.
  • 24/7 Operations: Automated systems can run continuously, resulting in increased productivity.
  • Data-driven Insights: Above all, automation facilitates data-driven decision-making.

But as employee rights lawyers, we have also seen growing concerns about automation. As automation in the workplace gains momentum, there’s a growing concern about potential job displacement and reductions.

We have seen many repetitive and even skilled jobs replaced by machines and computer programs. The fear is compounded by the transformation of job roles and skills, which demands employees to either adapt or face being made obsolete.

This shifting landscape raises questions about the future of employment, employee rights, and the nature of work.

Understanding the Shifting Workplace Dynamics

Yes, automation is reshaping the global economy. But how? It mostly comes down to the workplace dynamics, and this is what’s happening.

1. Altered Work Structures

Automation has virtually eradicated traditional work structures. With routine and repetitive tasks becoming automated, every organization has a new work structure and fewer positions for people to work.

2. Rise of Remote Work and Flexibility

Automation in the workplace has also led to remote work and flexibility. With digital communication tools and increased internet connectivity, employees can now collaborate seamlessly across distances. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic helped boost this transition.

But at the same, flexibility and remote work have led to more concerns about employment. For example, will your remote employees have the same rights provided by New York state employee rights laws? Or will they be treated differently? Many people’s experiences would argue ‘no,’ and are suggesting that rights are trending down.

How Automation Challenges Employee Rights

Yes, automation in the workplace offers undeniable benefits. But it also raises a few challenges, especially about employee rights. Here’s how:

1.) Job Insecurity and Lack of Protection

Job security remains a top concern. Depending on the industry, potentially dozens of employees may face unemployment when an organization adapts an automated system. According to McKinsey, between 400 million and 800 million individuals could be displaced by automation and need to find new jobs by 2030 around the world. This necessitates new approaches to protect workers’ livelihoods and employee rights.

2.) Algorithmic Bias and Fairness

Automation relies on algorithms for hiring, performance evaluation, and decision-making. But it can introduce the risk of bias. Algorithms can inadvertently perpetuate existing inequalities, disadvantaging certain groups based on historical data. This algorithmic bias may continue traditional discriminatory practices.

We’ve had several famous examples of AI technology discriminating against people based on race, gender, and more. There isn’t much reason to believe that it won’t happen again.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

As employee rights lawyers, we are more concerned about the legal and ethical considerations associated with automation and its impact on employees. Since our current legal framework did not take into account how automation and AI would develop, there aren’t as many restrictions on it as it needs.

As advocates of New York state employee rights, we believe we need substantial updates to address the challenges posed by automation. This includes:

  • Defining the rights and protections of employees and contractors.
  • Establishing guidelines for remote work arrangements.
  • Outlining mechanisms to ensure job security amidst the growing uncertainty.

Employers also need to ensure data privacy. Ethical concerns arise when this data is used for monitoring employee activities. It could lead to infringements on privacy rights. The same goes for surveillance in the workplace. Balancing the benefits of surveillance with the right to a private and respectful work environment is a challenge.

But together, employees, employers, legislators, and employee rights lawyers can find a way to strike a balance between automation and employee well-being.

Strategies for Ensuring Employee Rights

Organizations can adopt proactive strategies to safeguard employee rights and well-being. Organizations can:

  • Openly communicate automation plans and their impact on jobs
  • Invest in upskilling and reskilling programs so employees can move to different positions
  • Regularly audit data practices for transparency and compliance to avoid bias
  • Mitigate algorithmic bias and promote fairness in hiring, performance evaluation, and decision-making

Similarly, the government plays a critical role in navigating this changing landscape. They can:

  • Redraft labor laws to better account for contractors
  • Enact laws that protect employees’ digital rights
  • Collaborate with educational institutions to run comprehensive upskilling programs for workers
  • Develop ethical guidelines for workplace automation

Contact Our Civil Rights Attorneys if Your Employer Has Violated Your Rights

As a law firm dedicated to protecting New York state employee rights, we believe engagement is the key to addressing the challenges brought on by automation. Encouraging conversation among professionals, policymakers, workers, and advocates can help reduce the adverse impact of automation on employee rights and well-being. In this journey, every voice matters. Every action counts towards creating a fair and just workplace in the age of automation.

If your employer violates your rights through their use of automation or in some other way, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Contact the employment law attorneys at Bantle & Levy for help.

Bantle & Levy
Bantle & Levy

Lee Bantle is a partner at Bantle & Levy LLP. He has extensive legal expertise, admitted to the bars of the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals. With a distinguished academic background and clerkship experience, he has been recognized as a top-rated civil rights attorney and esteemed lawyer. In addition to his successful career, he has actively contributed to various legal organizations and serves as a faculty member for NYU's Annual Workshop on Employment Law for Federal Judges.


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