The meeting of the metaverse and the world of work

The term “mstanchions” is the contraction of “meta“which means the beyond, the after in Greek and from”universe“. The metaverse would therefore be beyond the universe, a interactive digital universe and immersive of the future with avatars of people who will, theoretically, be able to do everything they already do in the real world.

It exists and it will exist in reality several metaverses. Some will be for commercial purposes, others for education and still others will be universes of entertainment, these universes perhaps even ending up connecting to form one whole.

But the metaverse that interests us is the one in which it will be possible to worksuch as the one imagined by Meta.

Some companies are already experimenting with it, such as Accenture, which has used Microsoft’s metaverse to allow its employees to meet, interact and collaborate in virtual offices through virtual reality.

But still, in May 2022, 18 volunteers spent a week working in the metaverse, with a virtual reality headset (5-day week, 8 hours a day), only in virtual reality.

However, the “labour metaverse” raises certain issues, particularly with regard to the application of labor law. Should we apply labor law as it is applied in reality or will it be necessary to think about a new legal regime applicable in the Metaverse to our avatars and their relationships, a “Metalaw”?

The avatar, a non-subject of law

Behind the title of this article hides a more general issue relating to the avatar status in the working world.

In principle, the avatar is not considered an extension of the person and does not have legal personality, being a computer representation of an individual in a virtual world.

Indeed, legal personality can be defined as the “ability to hold rights and be subject to obligations which belongs to all natural persons, and under different conditions to legal persons“.

In this context, only natural and legal persons can have legal personality.

Also, the avatar, devoid of autonomy of thought and being only a graphic representation of the individual who controls it, cannot see the rights and obligations incumbent on the employee applied. Therefore, the application of labor law provisions in the metaverse is questionable, since they do not seem to apply to the same “person”. Applying a legal regime to “someone” who is not the addressee seems inept.

With regard to the performance of the work, if this takes place in the metaverse, by analogy, the work done should go to the avatar who did it. However, it must be kept in mind that behind each person’s avatar there remains a “real” man in the flesh who remains required to respond to the directives of his real employer. The question then arises as to whether it is possible to take a sanction against an avatar who would have committed a fault in the metaverse and not take any sanction with regard to the actual employee. This logic would therefore imply that the employee and his avatar do not therefore form a single “entity”, but that there would truly be two distinct ones.

If one pushes the reasoning, one can wonder if an employer could carry out the dismissal of an avatar in the metaverse. In this case, should the dismissal be pronounced against the employee who controls him, with respect for the appropriate procedure, thus leading to a suspension of the activity of his avatar?

Ultimately, can we imagine distinguishing the Man from the avatar?

A legal regime of the avatar to be created from scratch

In reality, one can very well imagine that the legal regime towards which it is necessary to tend is the one where the person identifiable with his avatar is responsible for his actions and that she can be sanctioned in the real world in the event of faults committed in the metaverse.

the metaverse should not be synonymous with irresponsibility at work.

However, the problem is that this legal regime, specific to labor law, does not yet exist and that our legal models are not adapted to the arrival of metaverses, as they are conceptualized.

Thus, can we really affirm that being present as an avatar in the metaverse is equivalent to being physically present at work in reality ?

It should be borne in mind that labor law is a subordinate human right, not an avatar right, a derivative of which could be, for example, to allow the pre-dismissal interview to take place in the metaverse, in defiance of the procedural guarantees granted to the employee.

Another example, if to join the metaverse and his avatar, the employee uses his computer or the company’s virtual reality glasses, the teleworking regime seems inapplicable when the avatar is not content to have meetings by videoconference, but actually accesses another universe in which he can work, have his office, meet his colleagues, have lunch there… In other words, a form of execution of work that is not remote, but at the borders of reality …

By extension, the employer who sets up in the metaverse will necessarily have to train its employees in its concrete application (use of equipment, adaptation of the workstation, organization of work in the metaverse, etc.).

Similarly, if it is the employer’s responsibility to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and protect the physical and mental health of workers, will this obligation apply in the same way in the metaverse?

The metaverse being a digital universe, this obligation on the employer is called into question when the health and the physical body of the employee in reality is not the same as that of his avatar.

For example, if a avatar is injured in the workplacethe employee in reality will in principle be perfectly unscathed since outside the metaverse.

But conversely, insofar as the avatars will be controlled by the employees, the psychosocial risks will be very real and the employer will remain the guarantor of the health and safety of its employees.

A truly expanding virtual world?

As can be seen, the development of a “work metaverse” raises many questions to which the rule of law does not really make it possible to provide a definite answer.

Indeed, the labor Code governs relations between employers and their employees, but not those between their avatars interposed in a virtual world.

One can also easily envisage the entry on the scene of a third actor in these labor relations, namely the company which will host such Metavers on its servers (Meta, Microsoft, etc.) and which will most certainly be responsible, as this is already the case, for example, in terms of cyber harassment on social networks or in online video games, to put an end to all reprehensible behavior online, at the expense of the employer or the employee, who claims to be a victim of wrongdoing, to challenge it in the real world.

With hindsight, imagine a new form of labor law could almost seem excessivewhen schematically, we imagine it regulating working relationships between avatars in a virtual world.

Be that as it may, an exciting legal revolution is to be expected with the development of the “labour metaverse” and all the questions it raises and which the courts (or who knows, the “Metajurisdictions”) will have to decide.

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The meeting of the metaverse and the world of work

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