The number of class action lawsuits accusing employers of violating an Illinois privacy law by making their workers scan their fingerprints continue to mount in Cook County Circuit Court.
In the past week, from April 17-April 24, six more employers were added to the list of those facing class actions brought by trial lawyers, typically on behalf of former workers, seeking to take advantage of a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision making it harder for businesses to defeat the lawsuits.
This latest round of lawsuits included actions against a Michigan Avenue boutique confectionary owned by the daughter of fashion designer Ralph Lauren; a supermarket chain, with 14 locations in Chicago and the suburbs; one of the country’s largest freight railroads; and the maker of household cleaning products sold under the brand names of Vileda and O’Cedar.
All are accused of violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act for making employees scan their fingerprints, either on so-called biometric time clocks when punching in and out of work shifts, or on scanners used to verify their identity for security purposes.
On April 23, plaintiff Damien Woodard filed suit against his former employer, Dylan’s Candybar. The New York-based high-end confectionary chain operates its only location in the Midwest on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. According to the complaint, Woodard worked for Dylan’s Candybar from 2016-2018. He is represented in the action by attorneys with the firm of Peiffer Wolf Carr & Kane APLC, of St. Louis.
That firm also filed a BIPA class action on April 23 against Chicago Ridge Nursing Center LLC, which operates Chicago Ridge Nursing & Rehab Center in Chicago’s south suburbs. The class action, which seeks to represent everyone who worked at the center in the last 5 years, was filed on behalf of named plaintiff Danielle Tolleson, who worked at Chicago Ridge Nursing from 2016 to November 2017.
On April 22, attorneys with the firm of Werman Salas P.C., of Chicago, filed a class action on behalf of named plaintiff Giovanni Collier against Pete’s Fresh Market 2526 Corp. The company operates the chain of Pete’s Market stores in and around Chicago. According to the complaint, Collier worked for Pete’s for two months ending in November 2018.
Also on April 22, attorneys from the Law Offices of James X. Bormes P.C. and the Khowaja Law Firm P.C., both of Chicago, filed a class action against Freudenburg Household Products. The company operates a manufacturing facility in west suburban Aurora, where it makes a range of household and commercial cleaning products and textiles. According to the complaint, named plaintiff Latera Chantel Moore worked at the Aurora plant from 2008-2018. The complaint said the company began using biometric time clocks in 2015. The class would included everyone who worked at the Aurora plant since April 2014.
And on April 22, lawyers with the Chicago firm of McGuire Law P.C. filed a class action in Cook County Circuit Court against freight rail operator CN Transportation Ltd. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of named plaintiff Richard Rogers, asserts the company improperly required its truck drivers to scan their fingerprints when entering railyards and other CN facilities.
Finally on April 17, plaintiffs Juan Cortez, Tobias Gonzaga and Alejandro Perez filed a class action against their former employer, Headly Manufacturing Co. The company operates a metal stamping facility in suburban Broadview. According to the complaint, Cortez worked for Headly from 2013-March 2019; Gonzaga worked for the company from 1998-March 2019; and Perez worked for Headly until March 2019. According to an article published in Crain’s Chicago Business, in March, Headly fired and locked out 10 percent of its workforce at the Broadview plant. The plaintiffs are represented in the action by attorneys with the firm of Caffarelli & Associates Ltd., of Chicago.
The class actions arrive as just part of the latest wave of such lawsuits since the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in January that plaintiffs suing under the Illinois BIPA law don’t need to demonstrate they were ever harmed by the alleged violations of the law to sustain their lawsuit.
In that ruling, the state high court ruled a technical violation of the law without real harm is “not a mere technicality,” and expressed no concerns about the potential cost facing employers who use biometric punch clocks and security systems.
In the lawsuits, plaintiffs have requested damages of $1,000-$5,000 per violation. Under the law, a single violation could include each time an employee scans a finger or handprint when punching in or out of a work shift. Such findings could leave even small employers or other businesses on the hook for millions of dollars in damages and fees.