By Emily Bazelon StaffTwitter engineers in the United States are required to live in their countries of origin, and a new law requiring them to do so has sparked outrage.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other tech companies have urged Congress to enact a law requiring tech firms to ensure that their employees are living in their country of origin for the purpose of employment.
In an open letter to Congress, the two groups said the US was the “worst place to live” for American engineers, adding that the ban would “prevent them from making the important decisions that can make a real difference to our democracy and economy.”
“If we’re not going to protect the rights of these engineers, we should also be making it harder for them to access critical information and to have a voice in the public debate,” said EFF Executive Director Corynne McSherry.
The EFF and other groups said Twitter’s policy violates the US Constitution and that it is unconstitutional for the company to require employees to live and work in the country of their origin.
The companies, which include Twitter, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others, have been forced to relocate to countries where their engineers are not allowed.
They said the policy is a form of political repression, and that its use would “encourage a country to ignore fundamental principles of the rule of law.”
In an emailed statement, a Twitter spokesperson said that while the company does require engineers to live abroad, it “continues to hire and retain people in the US, and as such we continue to support the rights and interests of our US workforce.”
“We have always done this to protect our employees and the American people from a false perception of security threats, and to provide a safe and secure workplace for our team members,” she said.
In a statement, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said it has opened a public comment period on the proposed new policy.
The agency will hold public hearings on the proposal from Jan. 6-8.
According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a trade group representing more than 50,000 businesses and industries, the new policy would require that American engineers who are working in the U.S. be “fully engaged in the development and deployment of products and services for our customers.”
“It is critical for American companies to maintain a presence in the international market, and these new rules would threaten the growth of our U.K.-based businesses,” NAM President Robert Thompson said in a statement.
“Companies in this country must be able to recruit and retain the best and brightest people in their respective countries,” Thompson added.
The U.N. special rapporteur on the rights to information, Dr. Christiane Amanpour, has called for an investigation into the proposed policy, and said she will seek to intervene if the ban is adopted.
The proposed policy “is likely to increase barriers to innovation in the area of workforce security,” Amanpour said in an open statement.
“Such a policy will exacerbate the existing gender wage gap and create the incentive to discriminate against women in the workforce.”
An EFF representative also sent a letter to Senators Al Franken and Tammy Baldwin urging them to oppose the legislation.