The Law & Political Economy of Workplace Technological Change

We often think about how technology is shaping the workplace – and how the law might respond. But the opposite question is just as important: how is employment law shaping workplace technological change? Brishen Rogers provides a fresh and challenging take in this piece. For another fascinating perspective on the role of the law in automation, Jeremias also recommends this paper by NYU’s Cindy Estlund.

This article explores how labor and employment laws shape workplace technological change. It focuses on emerging data-driven technologies such as machine learning, the branch of artificial intelligence that has sparked widespread concern about the future of work. The article argues that labor and employment laws shape employers’ technological choices in two ways. First, those laws help to facilitate technological development by granting employers broad rights to gather workplace data, to develop new technologies using that data, and to implement those technologies into the workplace, typically regardless of workers’ preferences. Second, those laws channel technological development in certain directions, in particular by encouraging companies to use technologies to exert power over workers and therefore cut labor costs. This analysis has policy implications. Among other things, it suggests that ensuring a decent future of work may require reforms to guarantee workers a voice in the development and deployment of workplace technologies.

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Chosen by

Jeremias Adams-Prassl

Theme

Algorithms at Work

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