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Workplace Biometrics Put to the Test

More than 10 years ago, the Illinois State Legislature passed the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which requires private sector companies to gain authorization before collecting employees’ biometric data, such as fingerprints, iris scans, voiceprints and facial recognition. While the passage of the law made some headlines in 2008, litigation was initially very minimal, as biometric innovations were merely in their infancy. Flash forward to present day where modern technology has caught up to the state law, and the now more common biometric-driven technology world is fueling a flurry of claims in Illinois. “A variety of class actions are being filed in Illinois courts, as plaintiffs assert privacy concerns and violations of BIPA by having to use biometric markers for everything from security entrances to time-keeping systems,” said Joe Schmitt, labor and employment attorney for Nilan Johnson Lewis in Minneapolis. “This issue was dormant for years, but it is now a key focus on the plaintiff’s bar in Illinois.” For companies who wish to continue using biometric data in that state, Schmitt recommends they clearly disclose to their employees the reasons for collecting such information and receive signed consent forms condoning their participation. “The cases are easy to bring as class claims, and the penalties can be stiff, up to $5,000 for each time a violation occurs or actual damages, whichever is greater.” Contact Joe Schmitt at 612.305.7577 or

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