An increasing number of employers are relying on biometric timekeeping to accurately track employees work hours, and that’s led to an uptick in class-action lawsuits from unhappy employees.
The benefits of biometric timekeeping — timekeeping that uses fingerprints, facial recognition, voice analysis, etc. — are clear, but employers get into trouble when they implement such systems in a less than transparent manner — especially in states that have specific laws protecting workers’ biometric info.
One example is Illinois. The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act requires all private entities that collect biometric data to create a written policy about its retention and destruction, make the policy available to all affected parties and follow guides for the secure storage and disposal of this data.. Illinois employers are also required to get written consent when collecting this info.
Unfortunately, a number of businesses in the state don’t seem to be fully aware of the nuts and bolts of that law.
Here are just a few examples: Roundy’s Supermarkets was just sued for not getting written consent from workers before implementing a biometric timekeeping system. Another recent suit alleged a Chicago-based hotel refused to give workers a copy of its biometric timekeeping policy or tell those staffers what’s been done with their info.
Should these employers be found guilty, they’ll likely wind up getting hit with steep penalties.
Under the Illinois law, individuals can recover up to $1,000 for each negligent violation and $5,000 for each reckless or intentional violation.
When you multiply that by each employee who could cash in on a class action lawsuit, the damages can add up pretty quickly.
Others following suit
Illinois isn’t the only state with a specific law protecting workers’ biometric info, and a number of states are already in the process of creating similar protections. Plus, experts believe this type of legislation is likely to increase significantly.
Regardless of what state your business is located in, if your company uses biometric timekeeping software, it’s always a smart move to:
- get signed consent from employees
- distribute signed copies of your policy to employees, and
- let workers know exactly how their biometric data will be used and stored.