In McDonald v. Symphony Bronzeville Park, LLC, 2022 IL 126511, the Illinois Supreme Court issued an opinion finding the exclusive remedy provisions of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act (“Compensation Act”) 820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. does not bar an employee’s claim for statutory damages under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”), 40 ILCS 14/1 et seq.

An employee filed a class-action lawsuit against her employer for violating BIPA. Her employer required its employees to use a biometric timekeeping system in order to scan an employee’s fingerprint for purposes of authenticating an employee and tracking their time at work. The employee alleged that her employer never obtained her written consent to store her biometric information or informed her how the information will be stored.

820 ILCS 305/5 and 11 of the Compensation Act are the exclusive remedy provisions by which an employee may seek recovery against their employer for work-related injuries. However, an employee can escape the exclusivity provisions if the employee can show that the injury: (1) was not accidental; (2) did not arise from their employment; (3) did not occur during the course of employment; or (4) was not compensable under the Compensation Act.  At issue was the fourth exception.

The Court held that whether the exclusivity provision applied depends on the type of injury the employee sustained. The Court noted the purpose of the Compensation Act is to provide financial protection for injured workers until they can return to work, whereas the purpose of BIPA is to protect a person’s biometric information. In comparing the two statutes’ purposes, the Court found that “[t]he personal and societal injuries caused by violating the Privacy Act’s prophylactic requirements are different in nature and scope from the physical and psychological work injuries that are compensable under the Compensation Act.” Accordingly, the Court concluded that the BIPA violation did not categorically fall under the purview of the Compensation Act and therefore is not compensable under the Compensation Act. For this reason, the Court held that the employee may pursue her BIPA claim against her employer in the circuit court rather than through the Workers’ Compensation Commission.

Although not an insurance coverage case, this finding may have important implications for insurers regarding coverage for BIPA violations. Here, the Illinois Supreme Court’s held that an employee’s BIPA claim does not fall within the purview of the Compensation Act. However, this does not necessarily mean that an insurer will not be able to disclaim coverage under the Employment Related Practices Exclusion. As we discussed in our previous article regarding the finding from the Northern District of Illinois that the Employment-Related Practices Exclusion applies to BIPA claims.

If you want to read more about BIPA, please check out the below articles:

 

For more information about this article, contact Catherine Geisler at cgeisler@tresslerllp.com.

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