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Sky Chefs Hit with Biometric Privacy and Fair Labor Claims

Dec. 6, 2019, 5:50 PM

Sky Chefs Inc. violated state and federal laws by failing to get workers’ consent before collecting biometric data and not paying overtime, a former employee alleged in an Illinois federal lawsuit.

Plaintiff Larry Frisby said the in-flight catering company collected employees’ biometric information without their informed, written permission in violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, according to the complaint filed Dec. 5 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Employers in Illinois are facing an onslaught of biometric privacy cases as the plaintiffs bar and workers become accustomed to the state’s privacy law. Possible high damages from a jury trial increase the risk companies facing class claims under the law.

Frisby, who worked at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, scanned his fingerprint to punch in and out of work without being told the data was disclosed to third-party vendors, according to the complaint.

Sky Chefs allegedly failed to provide workers with a biometric data retention policy, Frisby alleged. The Illinois law provides for up to $5,000 for each willful, and up to $1,000 for each negligent, violation.

Sky Chefs also was hit with federal fair labor and state wage claims.

Frisby alleged supervisors told him he had to clock in five to six minutes before his scheduled shift or he would be written up. He also alleged he wasn’t paid for that time before his shift began. From November 2015 to March 2019, Frisby estimated he worked more than 100 hours of unpaid overtime, according to the complaint.

Courts have yet to agree as to when companies must pay employees for off-the-clock work. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, workers’ pay starts with the “first principle activity” of the day, but some state laws have implemented a more worker-friendly definition to determine “compensable time.”

Causes of Action: Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act; Fair Labor Standards Act; Illinois Minimum Wage Law; City of Chicago Minimum Wage Ordinance; negligence.

Relief Requested: Class certification; declaratory relief; statutory damages; injunctive relief; compensatory damages; liquidated damages; punitive damages; attorneys fees and costs.

Response: Sky Chefs didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Attorneys: Jeffrey Grant Brown P.C. and Glen J. Dunn & Associates Ltd. represent the plaintiff. Counsel for Sky Chefs couldn’t immediately be identified.

The case is Frisby v. Sky Chefs, Inc., N.D. Ill., 19-cv-07989, complaint 12/5/19.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Hughes at jhughes@bloomberglaw.com; Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com