Life Time Fitness, Crunch Fitness Accused of Collecting Fingerprint Data in Violation of Biometric Act

Life Time Fitness has been entangled in various litigation during 2017, including a $940,000 settlement in October to a class of 186 trainers who claimed the company withheld their wages.(Photo by Thinkstock.)

An employee of Life Time Fitness, Chanhassen, Minnesota, and a member of a Crunch Fitness franchisee group operating in Illinois have filed class-action lawsuits related to the use of fingerprint scans.

On Oct. 26, Life Time employee Alexander Marshall filed a lawsuit against the fitness company and subsidiary company LTF Club Operations Company Inc. for allegedly storing employee fingerprint data without consent, according to an article in the Cook County Record. The suit, which was filed in Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois, cites invasions of privacy and violations of Illinois state law. He alleges that Life Time did not tell employees why their fingerprints were being collected, did not get consent from employees to use their fingerprints to keep track of hours worked and did not tell employees how long their data would be kept.

Marshall is seeking a jury trial, court costs, injunctive and equitable relief, $5,000 in damages and an additional $1,000 for each alleged violation of the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

As of Dec. 21, Life Time Fitness had not responded to Club Industry's request for comment.

This is not the first suit in Illinois involving health clubs and biometrics. On Sept. 8, Jennifer Knobloch, a Crunch Fitness member at a facility in the Chicago area owned by Chicago Fit Ventures LLC, filed a lawsuit that alleged that the company violated the BIPA law when it required members to track the use of their personal training sessions by checking into the session using their fingerprints, according to another article in the Cook County Record

Knobloch alleges the company did not “obtain informed consent”  before requiring members to have their fingerprints scanned and did not inform members about how long the data would be kept. The suit also alleges that the company did not inform members about what would happen to the fingerprints if the member cancelled their membership, if the club closed or if the club was purchased by a new company. 

Both Marshall and Knobloch are represented by Chicago law firm McGuire Law P.C. 

Illinois has seen an increase in biometric privacy suits, according to the National Law Review, which ran an article in late September that stated:"Even though Washington passed its own biometric privacy law this year, Illinois’s BIPA, which allows for a private right of action, remains the center of biometric and facial recognition privacy-related litigation."

An August National Law Review article offered this advice for businesses operating in Illinois:

"Potential liability under BIPA’s statutory damages provisions could be catastrophic. It is therefore critical that any practices involving biometrics (including employee timekeeping, security protocols or identification procedures) be thoroughly evaluated against the far-reaching and as yet untested provisions of BIPA. In the short term then, any such practices undertaken in the State of Illinois, and the scope thereof, should be evaluated from legal compliance and potential exposure standpoints. Because BIPA provides that an entity should 'first' disclose its practices and obtain consent from any individual from whom biometrics will be collected or captured, it is far from certain that after-the-fact consent from those individuals may ensure non-liability for past practices. What is certain is that the number of BIPA putative class action suits will increase."

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