Adam S. Forman, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Detroit and Chicago offices, was quoted in Law360 Employment Authority, in “5 Things Employers Need to Know About the Metaverse,” by Anne Cullen. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

The virtual world known as the metaverse is already being utilized by employers for things such as training, and experts say it could be the next big change to the world of work. While the metaverse may be new, longstanding concerns about discrimination and harassment still apply.

Shifting work into the metaverse, a simulated digital environment that uses augmented reality and virtual reality to connect people, holds advantages for employers, such as potentially giving them tools to be more inclusive.

A virtual meetup could break down language barriers, help disabled workers participate more equally or allow employees with gender dysphoria to present in a way that reflects their true identity.

However, claims of misconduct have already arisen in virtual entertainment spaces, with female gamers and eventgoers reporting that they were singled out by male users, virtually groped and threatened with sexual assault. Metaverse users have reported facing racist comments as well.

Research conducted late last year by British nonprofit The Centre for Countering Digital Hate found metaverse users faced abusive behavior — including bullying, harassment, threats and racist slurs — every seven minutes in a virtual chat room. …

Avatar Choices Can Be Fraught

Employees engaging with co-workers virtually may want to present themselves differently from how they appear outside the metaverse, and experts say this could be beneficial in some cases, and troubling in others.

If someone with gender dysphoria wants to fashion their avatar to better reflect their gender identity, that's a great thing, said Adam S. Forman, an Epstein Becker Green employment partner. "The metaverse is a comfortable forum for you to try out a different gender, or no gender, if you view yourself as nonbinary."

But workers who represent themselves as a different race could offend their co-workers, he said.

"The concern from a discrimination perspective is whether a Caucasian creating an avatar that is African American would be viewed as inappropriate blackface," Forman said.

Experts say it's not clear yet how an employer can address these potential issues, but they warn that imposing limits on how a worker can appear in the metaverse could be dicey. …

Epstein's Forman noted that, "there are infinitely more questions than answers to these issues."

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