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Fingerprint and Handprint Scans To Clock In At Work: Illinois Has A Tough Biometric Privacy Law


Do you know what happens to your fingerprint scan information after you leave your job?

Many jobs require workers to scan their fingerprint or handprint to clock in and out.  Illinois law requires that before this happens, employers do things to protect the information that is obtained from the scan and to inform employees about their rights.  Employees also need to sign a written disclosure. If that did not happen, an employee may be entitled to monetary compensation and the right to ask the court to require the employer to change its policies. If you are a privacy-oriented person, this law may be of interest to you.

Fingerprint scans are being used more and more for passwords. For example, on the iPhone, you can use your fingerprint as a password. However, if your password gets stolen, you can change it. You cant change your fingerprint

There is a law called the Biometric Information Privacy Act (or “BIPA”). BIPA is of importance to employees. Workers are sometimes asked for fingerprint/hand/retina scan (or other biometric) scans for things like punching in and punching out. Some employers are so concerned about wage theft (people punching others in and out) they have resorted to capturing biometric information. In our experience, the most common form of biometric utilization in the workforce is with fingerprint or hand scans.

An American Bar Association article reported in Employment Privacy: Is There Anything Left? that “Biometrics can also create the risk of identity theft on an unprecedented scale. It is easy to change a password or issue a new ID card, but we cannot give people new fingerprints. If a hacker gained access to the biometric database of a large employer that uses fingerprints, the identity theft harm is almost beyond imagination. Linking the records of biometric systems can create a record of a person’s location similar to GPS.”

Illinois’ BIPA law requires that employers get permission and have policies in place to protect biometric information such as fingerprinting. It requires informed consent and written policies. These are useful safeguards to at least minimize the risk of biometric abuses. Employees who work (or have worked) for an employer who violated BIPA can file a claim in court and recover between $1,000 and $5,000 per violation. Notably: nothing prevents employers in Illinois from capturing biometric information, they just must protect that information and make sure there is informed consent, etc.

It is critical that within the employment venue, the biometric laws remain strong. Employees need to work and should not be subjected to making a decision of having their biometric information placed at risk or not being able to feed their families.

If you have worked somewhere that required you to scan a fingerprint, handprint, your face, eyes, or any other biometric information, feel free to contact us.