Class Action Against Kroger Co. Alleges Biometric Information Privacy Act Violations

On Friday, Ralphs Grocery Company and the Kroger Co. removed the class action lawsuit of Johnson v. Kroger Co. from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois to the Northern District of Illinois.

According to the complaint, Ralphs Grocery Company is an Ohio corporation and a subsidiary of Kroger Co. doing business as Food 4 Less. Further, the complaint states that Kroger Co. is an Ohio corporation that operates supermarkets, grocery retail stores and multi-department stores throughout the United States including Food 4 less. 

The plaintiff, Maeteen Johnson, filed the lawsuit on behalf of herself and others similarly situated alleging the defendants violated the Biometric Information Privacy Act. The complaint states that Johnson is a resident of Illinois who worked for Food 4 Less as a cashier from June 5, 2016 to August 9, 2020. 

The plaintiff alleges that when the defendants hire a new employee, as they did with Johnson, they require the new employee to scan their fingerprint and enroll in a biometric time clock and timekeeping database to monitor the hours worked by the employee. The complaint states that the defendants’ time keeping system requires workers to have their fingerprints scanned by a biometric timekeeping device in lue of more traditional or conventional time keeping methods. 

The complaint further alleges that Food 4 Less discloses the biometric information of its employees to at least one third party and its parent company Kroger Co. The plaintiffs argue that the defendants’ biometric timekeeping system exposes their workers to serious and irreversible privacy risks because unlike ID badges or time cards, biometric information cannot be changed or replaced if stolen. 

In addition to the privacy risks to its workers, the plaintiffs also argue that the defendants’ practices are also in violation of Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act. The complaint alleges that the defendants are in violation of the Act’s clear and unequivocal requirements. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege the defendants failed to inform the plaintiffs in writing of the specific purpose and length of time for which their fingerprints were being collected, stored and used to develop and adhere to a publicly-available retention schedule and guidelines, obtain a written release from the plaintiffs to collect, store or otherwise use their fingerprints and to obtain consent from the plaintiffs to disclose their biometric information. 

Accordingly, the plaintiffs seek class certification, declaratory and injunctive relief, statutory damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney’s fees and costs for the defendants’ alleged violations of the Biometric Information Privacy Act. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Stephan Zouras, LLP, and the defendants are represented by Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP.