Australia: Employers Cannot Force Employees to Provide Fingerprint Samples For a Biometric Time Clock

In a landmark decision, Australia’s national workplace relations tribunal - the Fair Work Commission – has ruled that employers may not force workers to use biometric time clocks in the workplace, and that any dismissal based on a worker’s refusal to submit their fingerprints is unlawful.

The Fair Work Commission's holding overruled an earlier decision, according to which an employer’s site attendance policy that compelled workers to provide their fingerprint samples was reasonable. The employer, a lumber manufacturer, required its employees to use a biometric time clock system in order to monitor their work attendance. The company stated in its policy that workers’ refusal to provide their fingerprint samples for the biometric timeclock will lead to disciplinary action.

The Court held that “any consent that [the worker] might have given once told that he faced discipline or dismissal would likely have been vitiated by the threat”. That kind of consent “would not have been genuine consent”. It also stated that “a necessary counterpart to a right to consent to a thing is a right to refuse it”. 
The court concluded that the employer did not have a valid reason for dismissing the worker, such as one that relates to his capacity or conduct. Therefore, the employer’s policy was found to be unlawful, and the worker could rightfully refuse to follow it.

Click HERE to read the decision of Australia’s national workplace relations tribunal.