Whole Foods has been hit with a proposed class action filed by a former employee who alleges the grocer ran afoul of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) by requiring employees to scan their fingerprints to clock in and out of work and when taking lunch breaks.
Filed in Cook County Circuit Court, the case states that defendant Whole Foods Market Group, Inc. has put employees at risk by mandating that they use their fingerprints to record their work time. While taking fingerprint scans is not illegal in and of itself, the BIPA, the complaint says, outlines strict informed-consent rules for the collection, storage, use or transfer of an individual’s biometric identifiers.
The law, according to the suit, is designed to prevent private entities from capturing or collecting biometric identifiers and other information without first obtaining written consent or an employment-related authorization release. An employment-related release must inform an employee that their employer is collecting biometric identifying data and must state the purpose of the collection and the length of time the company will retain the information. Moreover, entities that collect biometric data must first have in place a publicly available written policy that states a retention schedule and destruction guidelines for the sensitive information. Lastly, the BIPA prohibits private entities from disclosing or otherwise sharing captured biometric identifiers with any other entity without first obtaining consent to do so.
According to the lawsuit, Whole Foods scanned the plaintiff’s fingerprint and then “disseminated and disclosed” the identifier to its time-keeping vendor. The plaintiff asserts that Whole Foods never provided her with any written materials stating it would be collecting, retaining or disseminating her fingerprint. Further, Whole Foods, the lawsuit says, never obtained the plaintiff’s written consent or release as a condition of employment to collect, store or share her fingerprint or a representation derived from her fingerprint.