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Commentary: Small, mid-size manufacturers urge Illinois lawmakers to fix BIPA

TMA members at risk of “annihilative” lawsuits under current law, Senator says

With its members facing massive liability under current law, the Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA) is calling on the Illinois General Assembly to act as soon as possible to fix the state’s flawed Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) that threatens business operations and jobs in our state.

It’s now been more than a year since the Illinois Supreme Court issued an opinion on a BIPA case against White Castle that left the restaurant chain facing more than $17 billion in penalties for BIPA infractions. In that opinion issued Feb. 17, 2023, the Court urged lawmakers to fix the legislation to clarify that penalties should accrue “per person” instead of “per occurrence,” which inflates potential penalties to annihilative levels for businesses.

Illinois lawmakers did introduce legislation in the closing days of the 2023 spring session to clarify BIPA, but negotiations ended without clarification. Several new bills have been introduced this session, but so far no hearings have been scheduled. The author of one of the leading bills, Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago), recently told the Capitol News Service, “Some would call (the current understanding of violation accrual) annihilative liability. It would essentially annihilate the business. It would cease to exist.”

According to Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse-Illinois (CALA-iL), more than 1,000 business owners in the Chicagoland metro area alone currently face “annihilative” BIPA lawsuits, including some TMA members. Each day that passes without clarification of the law gives BIPA plaintiffs and their attorneys the upper hand in pushing for higher settlements.

TMA is co-sponsoring a member event with CALA-IL next month to share information on the BIPA law with members that will help protect them from BIPA lawsuits.

“It’s now been more than a year since the Illinois Supreme Court urged lawmakers to clarify BIPA to avoid devastating lawsuits that will destroy Illinois businesses, and still nothing has been done,” said TMA’s Executive Vice President Dennis LaComb. “TMA sees the need to protect privacy and supports a fair biometrics data privacy policy, but the current law is designed to punish business owners so harshly that many will be forced to close their doors.

“We are pleading with Illinois legislators to fix BIPA as soon as possible to relieve the stress that is building in our members and their families over this massive liability that threatens to put them out of business.”

 

About TMA

Founded in 1925, the Technology and Manufacturing Association is an independent trade organization exclusively focused on assisting small and midsize manufacturers by providing a diverse portfolio of benefits and services, including: community, information, training, resources, and advocacy. TMA has nearly 1,000 members representing over 35,000 manufacturing employees and more than 25 million square feet of manufacturing plant.

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