Just like staying at a Holiday Inn Express made you smarter in the mid-to-late 2000s, writing a post about “blockchain” will make any blogger sound smarter in the late 2010s.
The latest entry in the blockchain derby, was “Is blockchain the next frontier in preventing sexual harassment?” by Jon Hyman. The post does a good job of explaining blockchain as a technology that creates secure, verified and unchangeable records. Hyman also writes how blockchain could be used for reporting of sexual harassment – and presumably other forms of unlawful discrimination. (The clear explanation of blockchain makes the post worth reading.)
The innovation or “disruption” described by Hyman is that there is an blockchain program that allows employees to bundle reports of harassment made against the same harasser.
So some Silicon Valley genius, or poorly paid coder, developed a program that mimics protected concerted activity. There might be an intellectual property issue here as this concept was actually invented in the 19th century – it’s called a labor union.
Also, if similar complaints about harassment or discrimination were stored on a blockchain run by a third-party vendor, it might require subpoenaing those records. Besides potential jurisdictional issues over subpoenas, tech companies are famously unwilling to cooperate with legal investigations. Apple refused the request of the FBI to unlock the I-phone of a mass shooter in San Bernadino, California. If tech companies will stonewall the FBI, I am sure they would stonewall a plaintiff’s lawyer in a civil case.
In contrast, a call to a union business agent or Local leader will often yield information about comparators and company practices in a discrimination case. Unions aren’t perfect, but neither is HR or the latest technology. Innovations in information technology can empower employees. One example is an app created by the United States Department of Labor designed to combat wage theft. But blockchain technology controlled by management is just another tool in maintaining the dominance of capital over labor in the workplace.
Unfortunately, U.S. employment laws are not equipped to deal with the day-to-day mental strains placed on retail workers. Workers compensation laws generally do not compensate purely mental injuries. Workplace bullying or harassment is only legally actionable if the harassment is severe or pervasive and motivated by an unlawful factor like race, religion, nationality, sex, disability, etc.
Assuming you do not have an employment contract, you can only claim wrongful termination if the firing was motivated by certain unlawful reasons. Unlawful reasons include discrimination based on sex or gender – this includes sexual harassment and pregnancy – as well as race, religion, nationality and disability. In certain places and in certain situations, sexual orientation discrimination can also be unlawful. Disability in this context will often mean any serious or chronic health condition you have. Disability discrimination can also mean that you are taking care of someone with a disability.
You also cannot be discriminated against by your employer for certain activities on the job. This is commonly referred to as retaliation. One of these activities is taking extended leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for your own or for a loved one’s medical condition. Other common protected activities include opposing unlawful discrimination; filing a safety complaint; filing a workers’ compensation complaint; complaining of pay practices; or complaining about other illegal activities. If you are a government employee, you might also have some claims based on constitutional law.