IRB: Ethics & Human Research

Employees as Research Participants: Ethical and Policy Issues

Employees who participate in employer-based research are vulnerable subjects, due to their susceptibility to coercion or undue influence in the work environment. Investigators, institutional review boards (IRBs), and employers should take appropriate measures to protect employees from coercion, undue influence, invasion of privacy, or breach of confidentiality when they participate in employer-based research. An employee’s decision to participate in, not to participate in, or to withdraw from employer-based research should have no effect on the employee’s hiring, promotion, performance evaluation, or other employment benefits. Informed consent documents and other research-related communications with employee participants should clearly indicate that research participation will have no impact on employment benefits. Because across-the-board prohibitions on employee participation in employer-based research may adversely affect employee welfare and freedom, IRBs and employers should develop policies that allow employee participation in research, with certain restrictions.