On Tuesday, November 7, 2017, a class of employees led by former United baggage handler, David Johnson (collectively, the “Plaintiffs”), sued United Airlines Inc. (“United” or “Defendant”) under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”). The suit claims United’s timekeeping system, which requires employees to clock-in and clock-out using their fingerprints, does not comply with BIPA regulations.
Specifically, Plaintiffs allege Defendant violated BIPA by failing to inform workers in writing that their biometric information was being captured, collected, and stored. Additionally, Plaintiffs allege that United further violated BIPA by not making its policy about the collection, retention, and use of its workers’ biometric identifiers publicly available. The complaint also calls the Defendant’s timekeeping policy “invasive” and alleges that it puts workers at risk of identity theft. The complaint noted that, unlike Social Security numbers, which can be changed if compromised, biometric identifiers are permanently associated with the individual-making the need to protect such data even more imperative.
Plaintiffs’ suit is the latest of BIPA cases filed in Illinois in an upward trend of such cases. According to Law360, at least 26 class actions alleging BIPA violations have been filed in Illinois state court from July to October 2017. BIPA is the first state law of its kind regarding biometric privacy, and the only one that provides for a private right of action. Under BIPA, a person may recover $1,000 or actual damages (whichever is greater) for each negligent violation and $5,000 or actual damages (whichever is greater) for each intentional or reckless violation, as well as injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees.
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Meisel, Hannah. “United Airlines Latest To Be Sued Under Ill. Biometrics Law.” Law 360. Last modified on November 8, 2017.
Pearlman, Steven, Young, Eddie, and Alex Weinstein. “The New Wave Of Employee Biometrics Class Actions.” Law 360. Last modified on October 13, 2017.