In a unanimous decision issued on February 3, 2022, the Illinois Supreme Court held in McDonald v. Symphony Bronzeville Park that the Illinois State Workers’ Compensation Act (“WCA”) did not bar claims under the Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”). In doing so, the court eliminated one significant defense commonly raised in such cases, since many BIPA class actions are brought in the context of employment (many of which were stayed pending the decision in McDonald). Critically, though, the decision does not preclude other potential defenses including claims of federal preemption.
BIPA is one of the most actively litigated privacy statutes in the United States. Among other things, it requires that businesses obtain consent prior to collecting biometric information (fingerprints, facial geometry information, iris scans and the like), issue a publicly available data retention policy, and refrain from certain data sales and disclosures. Because BIPA provides for a private right of action along with statutory damages of $1,000 to $5,000 per violation, it has proved fertile ground for the plaintiff’s bar.