IL Supreme Court Rules Against the Use of Worker’s Comp Act Preempting Biometric Privacy Damages

By Benjamin Cox on February 4, 2022 at 10:03am

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the state’s Worker’s Compensation Act doesn’t preempt claims for statutory damages under Illinois’ biometic privacy law.

The ruling now obliterates a defense that’s been used by employers in biometric privacy lawsuits in the state. It will now provide clarity for rulings in paused lawsuits against employers.

Illinois’ Biometric Privacy Act, enacted in 2008, mandates that private entities inform an individual in writing that their biometric identifier or biometric information is being collected or stored; share the specific purpose of why they’re collecting or using the biometric identifier or biometric information; and share the length of term for which the biometric identifier or biometric information will be collected and stored.

Employers have argued that any biometric privacy “injury” occurs while in the course of an individual’s employment and must therefore be adjudicated before the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission pursuant to rules under Worker’s Compensation.

The Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling upholds previous rulings in lower courts.

This will now allow lawsuits like Rene Reyes v. The Maschhoffs, LLC, that challenges the pork producer’s handling of clocking in to work by using fingerprints to proceed. Reyes claims in the suit that the company violated her privacy by improperly storing and handling her biometric information, making it susceptible to hacking and manipulation.

The Maschhoff’s case was continued in US District Court for Central Illinois on January 12th for a possible settlement between the two parties. The next hearing on the case is April 5th.