A continuing care retirement community owner and operator has reached a nearly $1 million deal to end a proposed class action lawsuit accusing the company of violating a state biometric privacy law related to the use of employee fingerprints.

West Des Moines, IA-based Lifespace Communities, which owns and operates 15 CCRCs in eight states, was accused of violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act

The suit, filed last June in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by Sabrina Bedford, a former nursing assistant at one of the nonprofit’s Illinois communities, accused the company of violating the BIPA’s requirements by unlawfully requiring employees to scan their fingerprints to track their work hours without obtaining informed consent, disclosing its data-collection intentions or informing workers that the company shares their information with third parties, according to Law360.

A Lifespace Communities spokesperson told McKnight’s Senior Living that the company “strives to protect the privacy and safety of all of its employees nationwide, including in Illinois.”

“This is why Lifespace implemented a policy that is compliant with the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act years ago, which requires the employee be informed of the policy and written consent before any employee is enrolled into their timeclock devices,” the spokesperson said. “Lifespace continues to enforce that policy to this day and continues to look for ways to improve its systems, policies and safety protocols for the betterment of its employees for the future.”

The settlement was reached before a court ruling on Lifespace’s bid to toss the action. 

According to the settlement agreement, the owner/operator agreed to a $988,000 settlement fund and agreed to provide information detailing when it implemented a biometric policy and the use of a consent form to obtain permission from employees. 

The class is expected to include 859 current and former Illinois Lifespace employees hired between June 2015 and the date of the settlement; each is due to receive $1,150. Recipients will have four months to cash the checks before they are voided and leftover funds are returned to Lifespace.

Illinois adopted a biometrics law in 2008, the first of its kind, to regulate the collection use, storage, retention and destruction of biometric identifiers and information, such as fingerprints, voiceprints, face geometry scans, or eye or hand scans. The Illinois BIPA influenced the National Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2020, introduced in August by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Arkansas, California, New York, Texas and Washington all have passed biometric privacy laws as well, according to Bloomberg Law.

Brookdale Senior Living, Senior Lifestyle Corp., Smith Senior Living and Sunrise Senior Living all faced similar class action lawsuits. All of these senior living operators were accused of violating the Illinois BIPA in requiring employees to submit to fingerprint scans to clock in and out of work.