An Illinois appellate court recently affirmed grant of summary judgment in favor of Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) in a class-action lawsuit alleging that ComEd violated the Illinois Employee Credit Privacy Act (“Act”), 820 ILCS 70/1 et seq., by investigating the plaintiff’s credit history in connection with a conditional offer of employment and ultimately refusing to hire her as a result of that investigation.
Many Illinois residents are familiar with ComEd, the public utility company that provides electrical services to nearly four million customers in Illinois. In 2017, ComEd offered the plaintiff a conditional offer for a part-time position. The offer was contingent upon the plaintiff’s successfully passing a background check, credit check, and drug test. ComEd subsequently withdrew its offer and notified the plaintiff by email that “due, in part, to information received from the consumer report previously provided to you, we are not able to offer you employment at this time.”
The plaintiff responded to the news by filing a class-action lawsuit alleging that, by inquiring into her credit history and obtaining her credit report in connection with her application for a position and by ultimately refusing to hire her because of information contained in the report, ComEd violated her rights under the Act.
ComEd defended the putative class-action suit by moving for summary judgment arguing that the Act’s prohibition against the investigation in an applicant’s credit history or use of information discovered during that investigation did not apply to the customer service representative position for which the plaintiff had been a candidate. ComEd argued that the possession of a satisfactory credit history was a bona fide occupational requirement of that position because it “involves access to personal or confidential information” of ComEd’s customers.
Section 10(a) of the Act provides that an employer may not “(1) Fail or refuse to hire or recruit, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against an individual with respect to employment, compensation, or a term, condition, or privilege of employment because of the individual’s credit history or credit report; (2) Inquire about an applicant’s or employee’s credit history; (3) Order or obtain an applicant’s or employee’s credit report from a consumer reporting agency.”
Section 10(b) of the Act contains a number of exceptions to the proscription in Section 10(a) when “a satisfactory credit history is a bona fide occupational requirement of a particular position.” Included among the exceptions is an exception for instances when “the position involves access to personal or confidential information, financial information, trade secrets, or State or national security information.”
ComEd argued that this exception applied to the customer service representative position that the plaintiff applied for because customer service representatives have access to personal, confidential information of prospective and existing ComEd customers. This information includes names, dates of birth, addresses, social security numbers, and driver license numbers that the customer service representatives request from callers to verify their identity and enter in ComEd’s information database. Additionally, customer service representatives take payments from customers which entails access to customers’ bank account numbers and credit card information.
The Court rejected the plaintiff’s arguments that the information customer service representatives handle did not meet the statutory “definition of personal or confidential information” and that customer service representatives did not have “access” to such information because once input into ComEd’s information database, customer service representatives could only view partial social security, driver’s license, bank account, and credit card numbers.
The Court’s full opinion can be found here.
Our Chicago, Illinois business and class action law firm handles individual and class action gift card, data breach, privacy rights, deceptive advertising, predatory lending, unfair debt collection, lemon law, and other consumer fraud cases that government agencies and public interest law firms such as the Illinois Attorney General may not pursue. Class action lawsuits our law firm has been involved in or spear-headed have led to substantial awards totaling over a million dollars to organizations including the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center, and local law school consumer programs. The Chicago class action lawyers at Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations to obtain the funds needed to ensure that consumers are protected and informed of their rights. By standing up to consumer fraud and consumer rip-offs, and in the right case filing consumer protection lawsuits and class-actions you too can help ensure that other consumers’ rights are protected from consumer rip-offs and unscrupulous or dishonest practices.
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