Pepperidge Farm Hit With Biometric Data Class Action

A former Pepperidge Farm, Incorporated (Pepperidge) employee has sued the company for violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) regarding the commercial bakery’s allegedly improper collection, use, and safeguard of employees’ handprints, which constitute biometric data protected by law. The complaint was filed against the Connecticut-based company on Jan. 29 in the Northern District of Illinois.

The plaintiff argued that the court has diversity jurisdiction over the matter because the plaintiff is a citizen of Illinois, Pepperidge a citizen of Connecticut, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. As to the controverted figure, the complaint states that because an individual may recover between $1,000 and $5,000 in statutory damages for each BIPA violation, and the plaintiff “estimates he scanned his hand 6 times a day, 6 days a week, for his three-week term of employment, the statutory damages he is entitled to far exceed $75,000.”

The filing explains how Pepperidge collects the biometric data at issue: employees press their fingers to a screen to identify themselves in order to both access an entry and exit porthole and record their hours and shift breaks. According to BIPA, employers who make use of biometric information must adhere to certain policies and safeguards. The plaintiff alleged that Pepperidge failed to abide by some of those strictures.

First, the complaint contends that Pepperidge did not have any written policy regarding its biometric collection and use as BIPA requires. In addition, Pepperidge allegedly also failed to first inform its employee about what information it collects, how long that information is kept, and what that information is used for.

Coupled with that, Pepperidge supposedly never obtained the requisite written consent from plaintiffs before asking to use, store, and collect their information, which is another violation. Finally, the filing claims that “large numbers” of the defendant’s employees, agents, and subcontractors had access to the fingerprint database, and that the plaintiff’s biometric data was stored without encryption, in violation of the statute.

The plaintiff seeks to certify a class consisting of all domestic Pepperidge employees whose handprint is or was collected by the company, at any time from five years before the date of the plaintiff’s original complaint to the date the class is certified. For the alleged harm, the plaintiff requests $1,000 for each negligent violation, and $5,000 for each intentional or reckless violation of BIPA, injunctive relief, and his attorneys’ fees and costs, among other things.

The plaintiff is represented by Neighborhood Legal LLC and Community Lawyers LLC.