A Chicago law firm known for launching class actions over digital privacy issues has set its sights on three more employers – the operator of 51 Illinois senior living and care facilities; the operator of two dozen Illinois nursing and rehabilitation centers; and the bakery behind the Otis Spunkmeyer and La Brea Bread brands – accusing each of breaking an Illinois biometrics privacy law for allegedly not properly telling employees how their fingerprints would be stored and handled.
On Aug. 17, lawyers with the firm of Edelson P.C. filed three separate class action lawsuits in Cook County Circuit Court, all accusing the three defendant companies of essentially the same violations of the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act (BIPA.)
The lawsuits targeted Senior Lifestyle Corporation and Symphony Healthcare, each based in Chicago, and Aryzta LLC, a Switzerland-based international company, which operates bakeries and distributes its products in supermarkets, convenience stores and other outlets in the Chicago area and throughout the U.S.
According to its website, Senior Lifestyle Corp. owns and operates more than 50 senior living facilities in Illinois, including facilities in Chicago and in the suburbs of Elgin, Lake Bluff, Blue Island, Bellwood, Northbrook, Joliet, Lincolnwood, Chicago Heights, Lake Barrington and McHenry, with several more in downstate locations.
Symphony Healthcare operates its post-acute care facilities in Chicago, Aurora, Crestwood, Evanston, Joliet, Hanover Park and Oswego, as well as others downstate. They also run such facilities in Wisconsin and northwest Indiana.
Named plaintiffs in the actions included Senior Lifestyle Corp. employees Laura Gutierrez and Jessica Arreola; Symphony employee Marquita McDonald; and Aryzta worker Jamel Barnes.
The lawsuits also each name human resources vendor Automatic Data Processing (ADP) as a respondent in discovery, meaning the plaintiffs are asking the court to order ADP to provide information to them to help identify other potential defendants affiliated with the three defendants named in the initial lawsuits.
According to the lawsuits, each of the employers required workers to scan a fingerprint into their company databases, to act as the workers’ identification for punching in and out of work shifts and other employment-related purposes.
However, the lawsuits allege the employers didn’t provide written explanation to the workers of who was collecting and storing their fingerprints, how long the biometric information would be stored and how it would be disposed of should the employees cease working for the companies.
The lawsuits said such notices and information are required under the Illinois BIPA law.
The lawsuits ask the court to expand the actions to include all Illinois residents who have worked for the companies and had their fingerprints scanned and stored for such work-related reasons. Each of the classes of additional plaintiffs could number in the “hundreds,” the lawsuits said.
The lawsuits ask the court to award damages of as much as $1,000 per violation, as allowed under the BIPA law, plus attorney fees.
The lawsuits come as the latest such actions brought against employers for the way in which they either handle employee fingerprints and other biometric data, or at least how they tell employees their information is being handled.
In the past three months, similar lawsuits brought by other law firms have targeted the parent company of the Mariano’s supermarket chain, and the Intercontinental Hotel Group, which includes the Intercontinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and Kimpton Hotels brands, among others.
In months and years past, the Edelson firm has also targeted a number of other businesses under the Illinois BIPA law, bringing class actions against Facebook and L.A. Tan, while also bringing class actions against, for instance, the makers of app-operated sex toy WeVibe, and online directory listing sites, like Whitepages.com, under other privacy laws.