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Dr. Pepper Employee Biometric Privacy Case Moves to Federal Court

Nov. 1, 2019, 6:07 PM

Keurig Dr. Pepper Inc. is trying to get an Illinois federal district court to toss claims it violated the state’s biometric privacy law by collecting employees’ fingerprints without consent.

The case now before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois stems from claims that Dr. Pepper required employees to scan their fingerprints when clocking in and out of work in the state.

Corporate defendants often move state court claims to federal court hoping for dismissal based on more stringent federal standards, such as plaintiffs not showing enough harm to have standing to sue, or failing to state a plausible claim in violation of federal court rules.

Plaintiff Gio Villanueva alleged that the soda giant didn’t have a public biometric data retention policy and didn’t get proper written consent before using the fingerprint information, in violation of the Illinois BIometric Information Privacy Act. Villanueva originally filed the case in Cook County, Ill.

Dr. Pepper filed a motion a remove the case from Cook County to the Northern District Oct. 31, effectively freezing the state action while the federal court considers the case. Defendants have the right under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to remove a case for various circumstances, but a federal court can send the case back to state court.

Dr. Pepper could be on the hook for damages if the claims aren’t dismissed. BIPA allows for statutory damages ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. Dr. Pepper says statutory damages would exceed $75,000.

Cases may be moved to federal court for various reasons, including whether a federal law grants jurisdiction. Dr. Pepper wrote in its Oct. 31 filing that the Class Action Fairness Act gives the Northern District of Illinois original jurisdiction to hear the case, that it involves a question of labor arbitration, a federal issue, and that there is a diversity jurisdiction, which means that parties are from different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

Illinois workers have filed countless biometric privacy cases since BIPA was passed in 2008. Many companies in the state are facing claims that they didn’t give proper notice and get written consent before implementing biometric time-keeping programs.

The pressure on companies is likely to keep up, although some Illinois state lawmakers and the state attorney general are pushing to change BIPA to lessen the impact of some consumer lawsuits.

Pretzel & Stouffer represent Dr. Pepper. Villanueva represents himself.

The case is Villanueva v. Dr. Pepper/Seven Up, Inc., N.D. Ill., No. 19-cv-07184, notice of removal 10/31/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel R. Stoller in Washington at dstoller@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Melissa B. Robinson at mrobinson@bloomberglaw.com, Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com