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Are Fingerprint Cases the Next Frontier For Plaintiffs?

Hilton Hotel in Chicago is facing a class action lawsuit over fingerprints!  A housekeeper who worked only nineteen (19) days filed a class action lawsuit against the hotel chain asserting they violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act by taking her fingerprints for time tracking authorization, i.e., they used a time clock that uses a finger print to start and stop the clock (a biometric timeclock).  She alleges she was damaged because the Hotel violated her legal rights when it intentionally interfered with her ability to control her own “sensitive” biometric data.  A similar lawsuit is also pending against Marriott International Inc.

New York State employers should see this case as a cautionary warning.  New York has a very similar law which provides no employee, as a condition of securing employment or continuing employment, shall be required to be fingerprinted.  This does not mean employers are outright prohibited from using biometric timeclocks.  Instead, New York employers are required to obtain the employee’s voluntary consent for use of their fingerprints for a timeclock.  Employers can achieve this by having each employee sign an acknowledgement confirming their use of the biometric timeclock and their provision of fingerprints is voluntary.  For employees who do not volunteer, employers must provide a legal alternative.

As technology advanc certain operational tasks become more efficient.  For instance, timeclocks which use biometric data prevent the historic problem of having one employee clock in for another by “punching” the other’s time card.  However, new issues arise.  Moreover, as someone famous once said, “with great power comes great responsibility.”  Due to this new technology is a new threat – identity theft!  We have heard time and time again in the news about data breaches.  Employers must ensure each employee’s fingerprint is secure and safe from hackers or those looking to engage in identity theft.  If not, the employer will expose itself to huge liability under the privacy laws.   One more reminder, the times are a chang’in.

Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with state and federal employment laws including privacy laws.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.454.0560.

Additionally, if this article generated any additional questions for you, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com.  We may address your question in a future blog post.