Image via Richard Baker / In Pictures and Image via Emerging Europe
As H&M has encountered multiple lawsuits within the past couple of years from copyright infringement with graffiti artists, to million-dollar wage class action suits, and most recently a class action suit for breaking Illinois state law and breaking the BIPA.
H&M is allegedly being sued for breaking the Biometric Information Privacy act - an Illinois state law that makes it against the law to store biometric data such as fingerprints, retina patterns, voice waves, and DNA (TFL). According to a class-action lawsuit that was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Kenyatta Slater, a former H&M employee stated that it was required of them to scan their fingerprints whenever they start their shift, stop for lunch, return and finish their shift. (TFL)
One of the main reasons for this biometric time clock stated Slater was that they could see the exact hours each employee was clocking in and “one employee could not clock in for another”. However, she also stated that this method “placed employees at risk”.
The risk, Kenyatta Slater is hinting at is the fact that “biologically unique identifiers, like fingerprints, can never be changed, [including] when compromised,” therefore, bringing the percentage of individuals “a victim of identity theft to (a) heightened risk.” (TFL)
Illinois state law covering the BIPA states that a “private entity” - any company or business that is nongovernmental - “capturing or collecting biometric identifiers from an individual unless that private entity first creates a [publicly-available] written policy” governing how it will collect, maintain, and ultimately destroy such identifiers, and also “obtains [each] individual’s written consent.” (TFL)
It has been allegedly reported that H&M has been sharing biometric information of their employees to “a third-party time-keeping vendor” (TFL). With this claim being put forward Kenyatta Slater decided to make her class-action lawsuit certified, allowing other previous or current employees of H&M to join her and be compensated for the sharing of their personal information (Jezebel).
H&M’s representatives at Nixon Peabody LLP, have responded to this lawsuit on grounds to dismiss as they have stated that “they do ask employees to consent to the system” proving that although the biometric system exists, they do have the employees full known consent to the system. Additionally, H&M also claimed that they “don't store the data anyway” (Jezebel).
This case is being further tried in Illinois’ Cook County courts, and the verdict is still undecided. With this claim being brought to light, it raises the question of whether or not firms are trustable with such private information and if firms are subject to that information once employees sign up to work for them.