7 May 2019

The full bench of the Fair Work Commission has made an important decision to protect workers’ privacy. A casual sawmill operator, Jeremy Lee, was sacked when he refused to provide his biometric data so that the company could introduce mandatory fingerprint scanning. He argued [$] that upholding his sacking would change “the nature of the relationship between employer/employee from an exchange of labour to one which includes the collection of employees’ sensitive information”. The FWC ultimately agreed, ruling that “administrative convenience” for the company was not a good enough reason to trample Lee’s privacy. A company must instead prove that biometric scanning is “reasonably necessary” — and less intrusive alternatives must first be considered. The Commission also clarified that “any ‘consent’ that he might have given once told that he faced discipline or dismissal would likely have been vitiated by the threat. It would not have been genuine consent.”