Worker Privacy Rights: Biometrics

 In Employment Law, Overtime Law, Wage Law

Beyond the right to be paid and paid fairly, workers have many other rights that are provided and protected by statutes, regulations, and court precedent. For example, under safety statutes and regulations, workers have a right to work in an environment that is reasonably safe and hazard-free. Likewise, workers have a right to work in an environment that is free from harassment and discrimination.

Biometrics and Workplace Privacy Rights

Workers also have privacy rights which are increasingly endangered by employers’ use of technological controls and advancements in the workplace. One area of particular concern is use of biometric identifiers in the workplace as methods of time-clock management and security. Commonly used examples of biometric identifiers are fingerprints and facial scans. But there are a lot of other biometrics that can be used to uniquely identify an individual including retinal scans, blood vein handscans, gait analysis (each person has a unique manner of walking) and how individuals uniquely use computer devices.

For workers, the problem is, after the employer collects biometric information, what happens to the data? Where is the data stored? Is the data stored so that it cannot be hacked or accessed by unauthorized “bad actors?” How long is the data stored? Is the biometric information shared with, for example, law enforcement agencies?

Fortunately for workers, many states are now protecting workers against abuse of their biometric privacy. New York, for example, recently passed a biometric privacy statute. Among other things, the new law requires that businesses obtain consent before collecting biometrics and, with a few exceptions, the information cannot be sold, shared or made available to third parties. Commercial businesses that collect biometric information via cameras and facial recognition software must post conspicuous signage indicating that biometric data is being collected.

Employers and businesses that abuse their employees’ privacy rights can be punished. Illinois was one of the first states to regulate use of biometrics. Illinois has a strict statute that requires consent before biometric information is collected. Further, employers and businesses must provide notice, before the biometrics are collected, concerning what the information will be used for, how it will be stored, how long it will be stored and with whom and under what circumstances the information can and will be shared. The Illinois statute allows employers and businesses to be sued and severely punished if they violate the statute.

As examples, Facebook recently settled biometric abuse litigation for $650 million. See news report here. In that case, the plaintiffs alleged that Facebook collected their biometric data via facial scans in violation of their biometric privacy rights. As another example, recently, a company called Lifespace Communities, Inc. settled an employee class action lawsuit alleging violation of the Illinois biometric statute for nearly $1 million. Lifespace operates a chain of retirement communities. Lifespace required its employees to scan their fingerprints as a method of tracking their work hours.

However, Lifespace did not obtain prior consent for use of the fingerprints and did not provide the notices required by the Illinois biometrics statute. Employees were particularly concerned about the fact that Lifespace shared the biometric information with third parties. As part of the settlement, Lifespace agreed to provide the proper notices to its employees and each employee member of the class was awarded about $1,150 in settlement. See news report here.

The Facebook and Lifespace settlements are more “wins” for employees. If you suspect your privacy rights have been violated by your employer, you should immediately seek the advice and counsel of experienced employee rights attorneys like those at Herrmann Law. As can be seen by the cases discussed above, your rights can be vindicated in a court of law.

Call the Employee Rights Attorneys at Herrmann Law Today

For more information, call the Employee Rights attorneys at Herrmann Law. If you think that your employer has violated your rights as an employee, call us. We are proven, experienced, employee-focused attorneys representing workers across the United States in all types of workplace disputes. Use our Online Contact page or call us at (817) 479-9229.

 

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