United States: New Employer Guidance For Illinois Biometric Information Litigation

Jennifer J. Froehlich is an attorney and Phillip Schreiber is a partner in Holland & Knight's Chicago office


  • The number of class actions brought under Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) has increased substantially each year since its passage in 2008.
  • One of the main issues facing litigants is what constitutes an injury under the Act sufficient to give rise to an actionable claim, with plaintiffs often arguing that even technical violations of BIPA by employers – without regard to any actual harm – create an actionable claim under BIPA.
  • In its recent decision in Johnson v. United Airlines, Inc., the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois viewed the mere violation of BIPA's notice and consent provisions alone as insufficient to support a claim.

Since its passage in 2008, the number of class actions brought under Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) has increased substantially each year. Several issues of statutory interpretation continue to plague BIPA and affect how the parties involved litigate the cases.

One of the main issues facing litigants is what constitutes an injury under the Act sufficient to give rise to an actionable claim. BIPA states that "[a]ny person aggrieved by a violation of [the Act] shall have a right of action ...." Plaintiffs often argue that even technical violations of BIPA, without regard to any actual harm, create an actionable claim under BIPA. Employers have taken the contrary position that mere technical violations are not sufficient to create a claim.

Northern District of Illinois Decision

This issue most recently was addressed in Johnson v. United Airlines, Inc., No. 1:17-cv-08858 (N.D. Ill. July 31, 2018). There, the plaintiff, an airline baggage handler represented by a union, sued United Airlines on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, alleging that United had violated BIPA by requiring employees to clock in and out of work using a fingerprint scanner without providing the required notice and consent under BIPA. The collective bargaining agreement United entered into with the union representing the plaintiff and other class members supported the use of the fingerprint scanner. Notably, there were no allegations that United sold or otherwise shared any employee's biometric information with any third party, or that the devices storing the employees' biometric information was hacked or otherwise compromised.

United filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff's claims, arguing that 1) the Railway Labor Act (RLA) and the parties' collective bargaining agreement pre-empted the claims, and 2) the plaintiff lacked a cognizable injury under BIPA that would grant him standing to bring his claims.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted United's motion to dismiss on both grounds. First, the court held that the RLA pre-empted the claims because resolution would require interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement.

Of more interest to most employers was the court's alternative basis for dismissal – lack of standing. As held by the court:

[A]lthough injuries may be intangible harms, or purely statutory procedural harms, the harm alleged by [the plaintiff] fails to rise to the level of an injury-in-fact without more. This is because the legislative intent underscoring the passage of BIPA was to protect "[t]he public welfare, security, and safety" of an individual's biometric information through "regulating the collection, use, safeguarding, handling, storage, retention, and destruction of biometric identifiers and information."

Because the plaintiff pled only a "notice and consent" violation under BIPA, he did not set forth an injury sufficient to establish an injury in fact to maintain his claim in federal court. The failure to provide the requisite notice or obtain the requisite consent did not create a "risk of disclosure" to third parties.

Johnson's alterative holding focuses on standing to bring a claim in federal court, not specifically whether BIPA gives rise to a claim merely for a violation of the notice and consent provisions. But the language of the opinion suggests that the court viewed the mere violation of the notice and consent provisions alone as insufficient to give rise to a claim. Johnson is in line with the recent state appellate court decision in Rosenbach v. Six Flags Entertainment Corp., 2017 IL App (2d) 170317, which held that a mere technical violation (failure to provide notice and obtain consent) without any actual injury or adverse effect does not make a person aggrieved under BIPA. There are additional state appellate cases on the docket that are poised to clarify further what harm is sufficient to trigger a claim under BIPA.

The bottom line is that plaintiffs who litigate BIPA claims in federal or state court need to allege more than a mere violation of BIPA's notice and consent provisions. They must allege a disclosure of their biometric information or some other real harm.

Best Practices for Employers

Litigation under BIPA likely will continue. Thus, Illinois employers should be mindful of the following best practices.

  • Identify whether biometric information is collected and for what purpose.
  • Determine whether BIPA's notice and consent requirements apply – and whether existing processes satisfy those obligations.
  • Verify that existing data retention and destruction policies satisfy BIPA.
  • Take steps to protect any collected biometric information from being disclosed in a matter that violates BIPA.
  • When working with a vendor who is involved in the collection or storage of biometric information, ensure that the vendor is aware of and compliant with BIPA.
  • Be prepared to answer questions from employees about the collection and retention of their biometric information.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions