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Illinois Privacy Issues

A Chicago law firm, Edelson P.C., that bills itself as the "Plaintiff Class Action Powerhouse" has launched three (3) separate class action lawsuits in the Cook County court system for what is alleged as violations of the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act (740 ILCS 14/1 et seq.).

This Act, which became effective as of October 3, 2008, was allegedly created to protect the "weary public" from the onslaught of the "use of biometrics" for identification purposes and which has created a heightened risk for identify thet. The Act has imposed various specific requirements on employers who use any "biometric identifier" (i.e. retina or iris scan; fingerprint; voiceprint; or scanning of hand or face geometry) to comply with certain basic requirements to protect the public: (740 ILCS 14/15):

  1. Develop a written policy, which is made available to the public, establishing any and all guidelines for dealing with biometric identifiers and biometric information.
  2. To inform all involved employees, in writing, that biometric identifiers or biometric information is being collected and/or stored.
  3. Involve the involved employee, again in writing, of the specific purpose and length of term for which the biometric identifier or biometric information will be collected, stored and/or used and
  4. Receive a written release, executed by any involved employee, authorizing the collection of biometric information or the use of biometric identifiers.

Violations of this Act, including any of the information reflected in Nos. 1-4 above, expose an Employer to the potential of a $1,000 fine for each violation plus reasonable costs and attorneys' fees for the involved litigation.

The three (3) class action lawsuits filed on August 17, 2017 involve Senior Lifestyle Corporation; Symphony Healthcare and Aryzta, LLC. Senior Lifestyle's Corporation owns and operates more than fifty (50) senior living facilities in Illinois throughout the Chicagoland and suburban area as well as numerous downstate locations. Symphony Healthcare operates post-accurate care facilities in the same general area as well as Wisconsin and Northwest Indiana. Aryzta, LLC is a Switzerland-based international company which operates bakeries and distributes its product in the Chicagoland area and throughout the United States (Otis Spunkmeyer and LaBrea bread brands).

The lawsuits allege that the employers did not provide written explanation to their workers who were required to punch in and out for their work shift and other employment related purposes by using a scan of their fingerprint. The failure to provide written explanations with regard to the collection and storage of biometric information and how it would be disposed of after employees' ceased working for the company is the core of the litigation. One of the first actions to be taken in these "alleged class action matters" will be a request to expand the litigation to all Illinois residents who have worked for the companies and been subject to the collection and storage of biometric information. The Plaintiff's counsel estimates that there will be "hundreds of individuals" in this litigation.

In the past 3-4 months, similar lawsuits have been filed by other law firms targeting Mariano's supermarket and the Intercontinental Hotel Group. It is strongly urged by the author that all Illinois employers familiarize themselves with the Biometric Information Privacy Act of the State of Illinois and make every effort to comply. Rest assured, that if you do not take actions to protect yourself as an employer, the law firm of Edelson P.C. may seek to help you as well.

Questions? Contact Attorney Walter J. Liszka in our Chicago office at (312) 629-9300 or by email at [email protected].

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