Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Millions of people worldwide entertain themselves or supplement their incomes – or both – by meeting with fellow employees as avatars in virtual worlds such as Second Life, solving complicated problems on websites like Innocentive, or casually “clicking” to make money for simple tasks on Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk. Virtual work has great promise – increasing efficiency by reducing the time and expense involved in gathering workers who live great distances apart, and allowing for efficient use of skills so that the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. At the same time, virtual work presents its own unique series of challenges, and regulation is needed to ensure that the end result is not virtual sweatshops. Some of the questions that virtual work raises are: How might the minimum wage laws apply to new forms of work, such as crowdsourcing, where work is broken down to small components? How could virtual worlds help us to test the amount of unconscious bias that exists in hiring? How will unions use virtual worlds, and as happened in the 2007 IBM Italy “virtual strike,” are more virtual industrial actions yet to come? Other issues discussed in the Article include virtual work approaches to whistleblowing, harassment, and disability law. While still nascent, these legal issues are of concern to employees and employers alike, and in light of that fact, it is appropriate to begin formulating well-thought out approaches to address them.
This article is the logical next step from the article Miriam published last year, in Alabama L. Rev., on virtual work and the FLSA. Nice job, Miriam!