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Investigating Claims of Harassment: A Step-by-Step “How To” – Part 1: The Complaint

What if you were the Human Resources representative that received a complaint that Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, or any of the other number of accused sexually harassed an employee?  What if you were the in-house counsel and received the complaint?  With the rise of sexual harassment allegations receiving increased scrutiny, employers need to have proper procedures in place for handling claims of sexual and other harassment in the workplace.

This is the first of a six-part series that will address guidelines and suggestions for conducting investigations of harassment complaints. Each harassment investigation, however, is different, and any investigation should be tailored to fit the particular circumstances.

What Complaint?

A harassment “complaint” need not be written, nor does a “complaint” have to actually be made to anyone. Most of the time, an employee brings a complaint forward to a supervisor or to Human Resources. However, there are times that supervisors or Human Resources may “hear through the grapevine,” “shop talk,” or general remarks that someone believes that he or she has been harassed.  In these informal “rumor” situations, just as in the situation where a formal complaint is made, prompt investigation and follow-up should be immediately undertaken. Constant vigilance and careful monitoring is one of the ways that we can ensure a workplace free of harassing behavior.

As soon as you become aware of a harassment complaint, consider:

  • Harassment investigations must be conducted promptly. From the beginning of the investigation, until the complaint file is closed (meaning that

Biometric Privacy Targeted In Increased Class Action Litigation in Illinois

Even as technology advances and consumers become more accustomed to providing their fingerprints in routine, everyday transactions (such as unlocking their cellular phones), private entities, and employers in particular, are under attack in the courts for their use of finger-scan and biometric technology.

The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”), effective since October 2008, regulates the collection, use, safeguarding, handling, storage, retention, destruction, and disclosure of biometric identifiers and information. The BIPA, however, was largely ignored until mid-2015 when the first wave of BIPA litigation was filed against social media and photo-storage/sharing services.

BIPA litigation has now turned its attention to employers. Since August 2017, in Cook County, Illinois alone, more than 30 class action lawsuits have been filed in state court alleging violations of the BIPA, mostly based on employers’ use of finger-scan technology for timekeeping tracking. The recent lawsuits generally allege that employers have collected, stored, and/or used workers’ fingerprints without providing notice to workers or obtaining consent. They also allege that employers lack written policies establishing a retention and destruction schedule for workers’ biometric information or identifiers. It has not yet been determined whether such timekeeping practices violate the BIPA.

What is a biometric identifier? A “biometric identifier” under the BIPA is defined as:

  • A retina scan
  • An iris scan
  • A fingerprint
  • A voiceprint
  • A scan of hand geometry
  • A scan of face geometry

The BIPA expressly excludes the following from the definition of “biometric identifiers”: writing samples; written signatures; photographs; human biological samples used

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