Illinois businesses are continuing to search for ways to get around the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). BIPA has now been in effect for seven years, and establishes a private right of action that has led to a cottage legal industry and allowed thousands of class action lawsuits to be brought against businesses accused of privacy violations.
Many of those lawsuits concern biometric data collection practices, and allege that businesses have forced employees to use biometric authentication at work without informing them about their data collection and storage policies, and without obtaining the proper consent. The problem, from a corporate perspective, is that BIPA carries steep penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, which can be levied against every single biometric scan if a company is found liable.
That’s why businesses have turned to the courts to try to limit their exposure. For the most part, that has meant that businesses are trying to narrow the statute of limitations, since that would limit the number of violations that fall within the scope of a potential settlement.
Those efforts have largely been fruitless thus far. As Cook County Record reports, in the case of Tims v Black Horse Carriers, the state’s First District Appellate Court ruled that Illinois’ default five-year statute of limitations for all civil matters still holds in internal BIPA disputes, though a one-year statute applies if biometric data has been shared with another party improperly. Black Horse had tried to argue that all BIPA complaints should be subject to the one-year limitation, and is now taking its case to the Illinois Supreme Court in search of a more favorable judgment.
In the meantime, Ring Container Technologies is fighting its own legal battle. The food packaging company has been in court since 2019, and is trying to get its BIPA lawsuit classified as a personal injury case, which would come with a two-year statute of limitations. However, Ring’s case is currently in limbo after the Third District Appellate Court put it on hold to await the Supreme Court’s decision in the Black Horse affair. The company had petitioned the Supreme Court to lift the delay, but the Supreme Court declined to move the case ahead and dismissed the request on March 1.
The Supreme Court did not provide an explanation for its decision. Even so, it’s unclear if Ring Container’s arguments will carry much weight when the company does get its day in court. A nursing home group had tried to get a BIPA case classified as a worker’s compensation issue, but the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that BIPA violations are fundamentally different than other injuries suffered on the job, and therefore do not belong in the worker’s comp arbitration system. Ring’s personal injury argument would seem to run up against similar logic, though it is certainly possible that the Courts could side with the company.
Ring Container is accused of implementing a fingerprint-based timekeeping system before obtaining the consent of its employees. The company runs three locations throughout Illinois.
Source: Cook County Record
March 10, 2022 – by Eric Weiss