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Wayfair Wrongfully Stores Fingerprints, Illinois Suit Says (1)

Dec. 3, 2019, 5:05 PMUpdated: Dec. 3, 2019, 6:15 PM

Home furnishings e-commerce giant Wayfair LLC unlawfully collects and stores warehouse employees’ biometric data, according to a class action complaint filed in Illinois state court.

Wayfair violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act by failing to inform workers in writing about its fingerprint-based time-tracking system and not getting releases from them before collecting their prints, plaintiff Pavel Balaz says on behalf of a proposed Illinois class.

The suit in Cook County Circuit Court is the latest to go after companies that collect and use employees’ and customers’ fingerprints, facial scans, and other data in Illinois. Caterpillar Inc. and Keurig Dr. Pepper Inc. have been hit with workers’ suits; consumers and users have targeted Juul Labs Inc., WeWork Cos., and, most prominently, Facebook Inc. Facebook is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the plaintiffs’ standing to sue it.

BIPA allows $1,000 to $5,000 in damages per violation, creating the potential for very large judgments.

Illinois legislators determined that when people provide biometric data, they should understand “who exactly is collecting it, who it will be transmitted to, for what purposes, and for how long,” Balaz says. “But Wayfair disregards these obligations, and instead unlawfully collects, stores, and uses its employees’ biometric identifiers and information without proper consent.”

Cause of Action: BIPA.

Relief: Statutory damages, injunctive relief.

Potential Class Size: The proposed class contains “at least hundreds of employees,” according to the complaint.

Response: Wayfair doesn’t have any comment, spokeswoman Susan Frechette said in an email.

Attorneys: The Fish Law Firm PC represents the plaintiff and the proposed class.

The case is Balaz v. Wayfair LLC, Ill. Cir. Ct., No. 2019-CH-13875, complaint 12/2/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martina Barash in Washington at mbarash@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com