Plochman's Mustard

The Plochman’s Mustard plant was alleged to have violated what is known as the Biometric Information Privacy Act.

MANTENO — Some 618 past and current employees of Manteno-based Plochman’s had their class-action settlement of $564,300 approved in Kankakee County Circuit Court.

The mustard-making company was alleged to have violated what is known as the Biometric Information Privacy Act. The violation occurred as the company collected the fingerprints of the employees through a scanning time clock device without the employees’ permission.

The collection of the fingerprints took place between April 14, 2015, and Jan. 14, 2021.

The scanners were used as employees checked in for work, but the employees never gave written consent to allow this use. The Manteno company said that if the scanner system is to be used in the future, it would comply with the privacy act, meaning it would obtain written releases from those using the time clock system.

It is unlawful for any private entity to collect, capture, purchase or otherwise obtain a person’s biometric information without first properly informing the subjects in writing.

Based upon the settlement, the amount awarded to each of those involved in the suit will be $500, after legal fees are deducted. The Plochman’s employees were represented by David Fish, of The Fish Law Firm of Naperville.

“We’re very happy with it,” Fish said of the settlement. “This will provide extra money to the employees, especially during the pandemic. We are very happy with it.”

Fish said workers should have their settlement award prior to the July 4 holiday.

He noted the scanner system is used in many places. Plockman’s, however, simply failed to gain workers’ consent prior to its use.

The scanner systems are used, he noted, to prevent wage theft, known as “Buddy punching.” In short, buddy punching means a co-worker punching in for another worker who is not there.

“It’s one of the easiest laws in Illinois to comply with. Employers, however, must inform their workers that they are taking the information and what they are doing with it,” he said.

The employer also needs a signed consent form from each worker.

“They didn’t get the consent,” he said.

The settlement was approved Monday by Adrienne Albrecht in Kankakee County Circuit Court.

Settlement payments are to be received within 60 days of Monday’s agreement.

As part of the settlement, Plochman’s denied all charges of wrongdoing or liability of any kind, but rather agreed to settle the matter to avoid the expense, risk and exposure associated with continued litigation.

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.