In February 2011, employees at a large amusement park filed a putative class action alleging that the company violated California state law by encoding employees’ Social Security numbers on the employees’ worker identification cards in such a way that the information could be read using a common barcode scanner. The lawsuit could involve as many as 20,000 workers. Plaintiffs claim that the practice puts employees’ personal information at risk as the information encoded on the cards can be easily accessed by using a barcode scanner, including those found both on the Apple iPhone and Android operating systems. The lawsuit also alleges that the employer negligently maintains the identification cards of former employees and that the cards could be found “stacked on managerial desks where they can be easily stolen or misappropriated.” Employees use the identification cards throughout the day, including to clock in and out of breaks, order food, and gain access to restricted areas. The basis of the lawsuit is California Civil Code Section 1798.85, a law that bars companies from printing an individual’s Social Security number on any card required for that individual to access products or services. According to a company spokesperson, the company is aware of the issue and is in the process of modifying the company’s computer systems to address it.
TIP: Employers should consider the security of employee information stored on employee badges or other locations, particularly to the extent that technological developments have made the information more vulnerable.