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Employees exercising power on moral grounds

The traditional power structure in a company seems to be one of two different approaches. There is the top-down method where the boss or board is in charge, and there is the bottom-up structure where unions or groups of employees exercise certain powers. In the era of open office plans and flat management structures, the latter approach seems to be gaining momentum, particularly in the tech industry where innovation, speed, coordination and communication are prized.

Flexing their muscle

There have been a number of instances in recent years where employees at tech companies confront management with ethical concerns over the products and services the company provides to customers. High profile examples include:

  • 300,000 Microsoft employees petitioning for the canceling of a contract with ICE
  • Extensive pushback by Google employees for providing artificial intelligence software to the Pentagon for application in drones
  • Google recently refused to even bid on a $10 billion contract with Pentagon

Facial recognition could be a new rallying cry

These tech companies who are creating these new products are also aware of how they can be applied, perhaps learning from previous innovators, engineers and scientists who saw their work adapted to less ethical products. According to the New York Times, facial recognition technology will be a new rallying point. While this work is great for using a device without typing in a password or using a thumbprint, law enforcement has used the technology to overstep the boundaries of personal privacy, cases of bias and even fundamental democratic freedoms.

What happens when there is a dispute?

Executives and employees may not see eye to eye when it comes to the direction of a business. Employers may not even be aware of a problem until they receive a petition, letter or some other form of employee pushback. While strikes and walkouts, as well as firings and outsourcing, happen, effective management and company success often mean weighing options to resolve matters, ideally finding solutions that retain staff and maintains profitability.

An employment attorney can help with arbitration or mediation at a table or facilitate discussions about company goals and objectives. They can also provide guidance on how to hold employees accountable for the work they do while also considering other long-term goals.

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Robert Kaufman has been selected as a 2013 Top Rated Lawyer in ‘Commercial Litigation’ as will be published in the May issue of The American Lawyer & Corporate Counsel magazine.Alex Kaufman has been selected as a 2013 Top Rated Lawyer in ‘Commercial Litigation’ as will be published in the December issue of The American Lawyer & Corporate Counsel magazine.

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