| Dwight Burdette [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]
The Salvation Army has become one of the latest targets among an expanding number of class action lawsuits filed against businesses and other organizations under an Illinois biometrics privacy law.
On Sept. 11, attorneys Lorrie T. Peeters and Alejandro Caffarelli, of the Chicago firm of Caffarelli & Associates Ltd., filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court against the charity, which provides food, shelter, substance abuse counseling and a range of other social services to some of the neediest residents in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois and throughout the country.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of named plaintiff Nancy Gebel, of Oak Lawn.
Alejandro Caffarelli | Caffarelli & Associates
According to the complaint, Gebel works for The Salvation Army as a therapist.
In the lawsuit, Gebel asserted The Salvation Army has required her and other workers to scan their fingerprints to verify their identity when punching in and out of work shifts.
Gebel claims she was required to scan her fingerprints beginning in March 2019. However, the lawsuit seeks to expand the lawsuit to include a class of additional plaintiffs which could include everyone who has worked for The Salvation Army in Illinois in the last five years, who has similarly been required to scan their fingerprints.
According to its website, The Salvation Army operates a dozen facilities in Chicago alone, with dozens more throughout Chicago’s suburbs and downstate.
According to the lawsuit, Gebel alleges The Salvation Army never obtained express authorization from its employees before requiring the fingerprint scans, nor did it provide notices to employees, as the plaintiffs allege the organization was required to do by the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.
Gebel’s complaint seeks damages of $1,000-$5,000 per violation, which some legal observers have interpreted to mean each time a worker scans their fingerprint, which could be multiple times per worker per day.
Particularly since the Illinois Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that plaintiffs don’t need to prove they suffered concrete injury before bringing suit under the law, BIPA lawsuits have swiftly mounted in Illinois courts.
While the law has been on the books since 2008, it is only in recent years that plaintiffs lawyers have pressed lawsuits over the law’s notice and authorization provisions.
The class action lawsuits have come against businesses of all kinds and sizes, particularly pursuing employers who require employees to verify their identity using fingerprint scans.
Legal observers, particularly from those in the ranks of attorneys who defend businesses against such claims, have warned the BIPA notice provisions could produce crippling judgments against businesses. The law mandates damages of $1,000-$5,000 per violation, which could quickly climb into the millions of dollars.