Javascript is disabled. Please enable Javascript to log in.
Published: 2012-11-06

Think Your Law Firm is Tough? Try Fingerprinting to Monitor Employees



As the Toronto Star reports, one law firm is turning to technology to track the comings and goings of its attorneys and staff.

And you thought your law firm was tough.

The law firm of McCague Borlack LLP in Toronto has a new security system that will require attorneys and staff to clock in and out by swiping their finger, which will use fingerprint scanning technology to monitor when employees enter and leave the firm. Apparently, certain attorneys that spend a significant amount of time with clients will be exempt from this requirement.

So much for sneaking in late or leaving early.

Ostensibly, the new system will improve building security, but the firm sees a huge benefit in being able to track how many hours its employees are working.

The finger scanning machines are supplied by Qqest, Inc., a company based in Utah. Fingerprinting scanning systems, also known as biometric time clocks, are available from a multitude of companies, and their use is on the rise.

Does the thought of this send chills down your spine? A little too Big Brother-esque?

Well, you're not alone. It seems the grand plan does not sit well with some of the staff at McCague Borlack LLP. A group of secretaries has started a blog called the Finger Campaign.

One post says: "The firm wants greater control and 'productivity enhancement' - with the cost to be paid by workers' dignity. This program unjustly smells bad."

Is the practice legal? Apparently in Canada, there are no laws on the books to prevent employers from requiring the use of fingerprinting to track time in and out.

Here in the U.S., there does not appear to be any federal laws barring the practice although some states have taken steps to curtail certain aspects. Only Texas, Illinois and Washington have passed legislation restricting biometric data storage and mandating user consent prior to collecting it. However, this legislation is limited to storage of the information, and does not necessarily prevent use of biometric time clocks.

What does this mean for employees? The future is here and it does not look pretty.

Perhaps however, employers will think twice about implementing a plan such as McCague's. Maybe to some employers the tradeoff is worth it. Technological advances can improve the accuracy of time reporting. But at what cost? The moral of your workforce? One would hope there are less intrusive ways to improve attendance and productivity.

Anne O'Donnell is a recovering litigator who is now currently a Senior Writer for legal professional content at Findlaw.com. She practiced for 10 years in civil litigation in San Francisco.