A Watershed Victory for Workers at the United States Supreme Court:
Saxon v. Southwest Airlines: Thousands of companies force their employees to sign arbitration agreements as a condition of employment, stripping away their right to bring future claims in court or on a class-wide basis, and forcing them to keep all claims of company mistreatment under wraps. When Southwest Airlines claimed that it could force certain employees to arbitrate their claims, we argued – in a case of first impression – that these employees were exempt from having to arbitrate under federal law and should have their day in Court. We took the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court which, in a landmark decision, agreed with us and ruled in our favor. See, e.g., press here, and here. As a result, thousands of employees nationwide retain their right to have their claims heard in court by a jury.
Groundbreaking Victories for Privacy Rights at the Illinois Supreme Court:
Tims v. Black Horse Carriers, Inc.: In Illinois, if a law does not have an explicit statute of limitations period (the time between when a legal violation occurs and when a lawsuit can be filed), then the period is five years. Because the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) does not specify a statute of limitations period, we argued that BIPA claims are subject to the default five-year statute of limitations. The Illinois Appellate Court found that only some provisions of BIPA were subject to a five-year limitations period and other provisions of BIPA were subject to a two-year period. We took our case to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Agreeing with us, the Supreme Court decided that all claims under BIPA are subject to a five-year limitations period – the maximum available under the law. See, e.g., press here and here. Because of our firm’s efforts, anyone whose rights have been violated in any way under BIPA have five years to bring their claims.
Cothron v. White Castle System, Inc.: In determining the statute of limitations for claims under the Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”), another hotly-disputed question is when the clock starts ticking to bring that claim –the first time that an individual’s biometric data is collected or disclosed without informed consent, or the last time? Naturally, companies that repeatedly broke the law by collecting biometric data multiple times from the same person argued it should be the first time, as this result would severely limit the time in which the individual could bring suit.
In another seminal victory for plaintiffs, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed with us and ruled that BIPA claims accrue not just the first time but every time a private entity collects or discloses biometric data without informed consent in violation of BIPA. See, e.g., press here and here. As a result, the five-year statute of limitations for anyone whose rights have been violated under BIPA begins to run at the last collection of biometric data without informed consent.
More Appellate Victories for Plaintiffs:
Fisher v. HP Property Management, LLC: Companies that are based outside of Illinois must do sufficient business activity within the state in order for Illinois courts to have jurisdiction over claims against them. KEYper Systems, an out-of-state manufacturer of a biometric key security system, argued that Illinois users of its biometric device did not adequately allege that it (1) purposefully directed its conduct at Illinois residents or (ii) their injuries arose from the manufacturer’s Illinois-related activities.
The Illinois Appellate Court ruled in our favor, finding that KEYper’s contacts with Illinois, including providing ongoing services to customers in Illinois, establishes prima facie personal jurisdiction for potential injuries arising from those contacts. This decision curtailed out-of-state companies’ attempts to avoid their duty to comply with the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) and expanded protection of the sensitive biometric data of Illinois citizens.
Liu v. Four Seasons Hotel, Ltd.: Companies love forcing employee disputes to arbitration, where a company’s wrongdoing is adjudicated in a closed-door proceeding without a jury, judge or requirement to follow any of the procedural, discovery or evidentiary rules applied in court. Making matters worse, the employee must stand alone, without the ability to bring claims as a class action, even when the claims concern widespread illegality which impacts hundreds or thousands of others. When Four Seasons argued that its employees, whose biometric privacy rights it had violated for years, should be forced to individually arbitrate their claims under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) as “employment disputes” subject to its arbitration agreement, we argued that BIPA is a law applying inside and outside of the workplace, and that Four Seasons could not create an after-the-fact loophole to avoid liability under BIPA.
The Illinois Appellate Court ruled in our favor, agreeing that BIPA is not just a workplace law and confers a duty on all private entities with respect to all Illinois citizens. See, e.g., press here. This means that absent specific language in an arbitration agreement covering BIPA claims, people whose rights have been violated under the statute may pursue their claims in court.
Ohle v. Neiman Marcus Group: A job applicant’s credit score is rarely relevant to their qualifications for a job. This is why the Illinois General Assembly enacted the Employee Credit Privacy Act (“ECPA”) in 2011 – to ensure that individuals who face “financial hardships that are often unpreventable” an opportunity to obtain gainful employment despite bad credit where their credit history has no bearing on their job performance. When Nieman Marcus denied a job applicant a position solely because of her credit report, we argued that this constituted discrimination against Plaintiff in violation of the ECPA as the retail position did not trigger any of the seven limited scenarios where a credit check is allowed during a job application process. While Neiman Marcus argued that the job position involved access to personally identifiable information of its customers, but we argued that the sales associates were merely conduits of personally identifiable information – i.e., that they would take a customer’s store credit card application and give it to a manager for processing.
The Illinois Appellate Court ruled in our favor, agreeing that the Employee Credit Privacy Act did not allow for credit checks for employees who do not actually handle personally identifiable information, but just act as conduits who give the information to someone else. See more here. This landmark decision ensured that individuals applying for cashier positions would not be subject to credit checks simply because they operated cash drawers and credit cards, even if working in high-end retail establishments.