A Powell lawmaker’s proposal to prohibit employers from requiring their employees to be microchipped has cleared its first hurdle: Sen. Dan Laursen’s legislation won the unanimous …
A Powell lawmaker’s proposal to prohibit employers from requiring their employees to be microchipped has cleared its first hurdle: Sen. Dan Laursen’s legislation won the unanimous approval of the Senate labor committee on Friday.
“The bill is pretty simple,” Laursen told the panel. “It prohibits employers from requiring employees to have microchips implanted in the employees’ bodies.”
Senate File 72 is a preemptive measure, as there have been no reports of mandatory microchips in the state.
“... It’s kind of a rare opportunity to be proactive — stopping something that’s maybe not happening now,” Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation lobbyist Brett Moline testified in support of the bill.
Microchips have been growing in popularity around the globe, with instances of their use increasing. The small chips — generally about the size of a grain of rice — can be embedded in a person’s skin and encoded with data. They can enable the wearer to open a security door, purchase a snack or share their medical history with a physician by simply swiping their hand.
“On the other side of the ocean, there’s some countries that, voluntarily, are excited about this [technology],” Laursen said. He also noted that his three small dogs are microchipped — a practice that can make it easier to identify a pet if it runs off and is found by a stranger.
However, “I just don’t think this should be something that our employers require,” Laursen said.
Under SF 72, employers would be prohibited from not only requiring a chip, but also from asking prospective hires about whether they’d be willing to have one implanted, coercing an employee into being chipped or in any way discriminating against those who don’t want one.
If a worker does agree to have a chip implanted in their body, their employer must get their consent in writing and allow them to have the chip removed at any time. Under the bill, an employer must remove the chip within 30 days of the employee making the request and cover all of the medical costs associated with implantation and removal, plus any complications associated with the device. Employers would also be required to tell the employee what data will be on the chip and how they plan to use it.
The final section of the bill clarifies that it does not prohibit an employer “from using alternative, non‑invasive technology to track the movement of the employer’s employees.”
Laursen said he’s heard some concern about the section and “if that was taken out, it wouldn’t offend me,” he told the labor committee.
“I don’t know if I want to encourage the tracking of employees,” Laursen said. “But it does happen.”
Committee Chairman Sen. Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, who works as a physician assistant, said some hospitals have their nurses carry small devices so their managers know where they are if they need to be called back to work. Baldwin suggested keeping the language about non-invasive tracking in the bill.
Meanwhile, Sen. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, wondered aloud if the bill might take away some opportunities from employers. He floated a potential scenario in which microchips could help identify the remains of deceased workers after a disaster at an underground trona mine. But, Barlow continued, “maybe it’s just up [to] the employer to convince the employee that it’s a good thing.”
His bigger question was whether the bill should also prohibit discrimination against employees who opt to be chipped.
“If we’re going to be protective, we’ve got to be protective both ways,” Barlow said. Protecting only one set of employees from a hostile work environment and dismissal could put an employer in “an impossible situation,” he said.
However, Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, suggested that might be part of the danger an employer could face with a microchipping program. “You implement or start this, you’re going to create a mess in your own company,” he said.
The bill passed the committee on a 5-0 vote and is set to face its first reading in front of the full Senate today (Tuesday). It has 13 co-sponsors, including Sen. Tim French, R-Powell, and Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody.
Laursen brought the bill after learning about the subject at a conference hosted by the American Legislative Exchange Council. He said 12 other states have already implemented similar bans on microchip mandates.