Thursday, 21 September 2017 23:00

Class Actions: Abra Auto Body, Crunch Fitness in IL Didn't Properly Collect Employee, Customer Fingerprints

Written by Jonathan Bilyk, Cook County Record

Two more business groups---a chain of auto body repair shops and a group of fitness clubs---have been added to the growing list of shops being sued under an Illinois law governing how businesses are supposed to handle the collection and use of employees’ and customers’ fingerprints and other so-called biometric information.

On Sept. 8, attorneys with two Chicago law firms introduced class action lawsuits in Cook County Circuit Court, accusing both Abra Auto Body & Glass and the operators of the Crunch Fitness group of gyms, of violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Lawyers for the firm of Stephan Zouras LLP, of Chicago, filed suit on behalf of named plaintiff Randy Fields against Abra.

The lawsuit marked the third such lawsuit filed by the Stephan Zouras firm under the Illinois BIPA law in September. On Sept. 5, the firm filed two similar lawsuits in Cook County court against both the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group and the Speedway chain of gas stations and convenience stores.

According to the most recent lawsuit, Abra, like many other employers, requires employees to scan their fingerprints into the company’s employee database, and then use their fingerprints to punch in and out of their work shifts.

However, the lawsuit says Abra didn’t inform Fields and other employees of the company’s policies for collecting, storing and managing the fingerprints, including how long the prints would be stored in the company’s computers after an employee leaves the company.

Fields alleges he was never provided a written form authorizing the company to collect and store his fingerprints, as he asserts is required by Illinois law.

According to the lawsuit, Fields worked at Abra’s shop in south suburban Lynwood from 2013-2017.

According to its website, Abra operates 44 shops in Illinois, and more than 30 scattered throughout the Chicago area.

The lawsuit seeks to expand the action to include all of Abra’s Illinois employees who may have had their fingerprints scanned---a group that may number in the “hundreds or more,” the lawsuit said.

Also, on Sept. 8, attorneys from the firm of McGuire Law PC, of Chicago, filed suit against Crunch Fitness operator, Chicago Fit Ventures LLC, claiming that group didn’t abide by the requirements of the Illinois BIPA law when collecting customers’ fingerprints.

According to that lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of named plaintiff Jennifer Knobloch, Crunch members were required to scan their fingerprints into the company’s database to “track the use of personal training sessions.”

Each time members arrived for such training sessions, they were required to scan their fingerprints to “check in.”

The lawsuit asserts Crunch Fitness did not “obtain informed consent” from Knobloch and other club members “prior to capturing, collection, storing and using” their fingerprints. They further accuse Crunch of not providing Knobloch and others with “a retention schedule and deletion policies which detailed how and when (Crunch) would retain and then destroy” customers’ fingerprint scans, and what happens to their fingerprint scans should the clubs close, the clubs be bought or sold by another company, or if members leave the club.

Knobloch’s lawsuit seeks to expand the action to include all Crunch members whose fingerprints were scanned at Crunch locations in Illinois.

According to Crunch’s website, the chain operates three locations in Illinois---in suburban Aurora, Schaumburg and Mt. Prospect.

The lawsuit asserts the potential number of Crunch members that could be included in the lawsuit number to be in the “hundreds, if not thousands.”

The lawsuits by Knobloch and Fields, through the Stephan Zouras and McGuire Law firms, are the latest in a rising number of such actions brought in Chicago courts under the Illinois BIPA law.

In the past, BIPA actions had centered mainly on digital privacy, targeting social media giants such as Facebook, and photo sharing sites like Shutterfly, for allowing people who had not given permission to be identified on their sites.

However, in more recent months, actions have particularly targeted employers and other businesses for not precisely following the law when collecting and storing employee and customer fingerprints, facial scans and other biometric information.

Other companies recently targeted, in addition to Speedway and Lettuce, include the parent company of the Mariano's supermarkets chain, the Intercontinental Hotels Group, Otis Spunkmeyer-brand bakery Aryzta and two groups of senior living facilities.


We thank Cook County Record for reprint permission.