Illinois Supreme Court rules that BIPA claims are not preempted by the Workers’ Compensation Act

On February 3, 2022, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that a plaintiff’s privacy claims for statutory damages are not barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA). In 2017, the lead plaintiff filed a putative class action accusing her former employer, Symphony Bronzeville Park, LLC, of violating the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). Bronzeville allegedly collected, used, and stored employee fingerprints as part of its timekeeping system without obtaining its employees’ written consent.  In response to these allegations, Bronzeville asserted that all work-related injuries—including privacy right violations brought under BIPA— are barred by the exclusive remedy provisions in the WCA.  
In its analysis, the court explained that an employee can escape the exclusivity provisions of the WCA “if the employee establishes that the injury (1) was not accidental; (2) did not arise from his employment; (3) was not received during the course of employment; or (4) was not compensable under the [Compensation] Act.” Referring to the fourth exception, the plaintiff argued that only physical or psychological injuries are “compensable” under the WCA. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed, writing that a Privacy Act violation “is not the type of injury that categorically fits within the purview of the [WCA] and is thus not compensable under the Compensation Act.” Accordingly, plaintiff was permitted to pursue her Privacy Act claims in the circuit court rather than before the Workers’ Compensation Commission.
The court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

Illinois Supreme Court Opinion