I work in a retail store with about 20 staff members. Usually 3-8 work at a time. The job isn't meant to be permanent and pays close to minimum wage. All of a sudden they are adding a fingerprint scanner to clock people in and out.

My question is, if I refuse to give them my fingerprints, can they do anything? My contract says I must give 2 weeks notice to quit but given how they sprung this on us, this wouldn't be possible.

Given the COVID pandemic, this sure seems like a strange time to be implementing such a thing.

  • It isn't really strange, and you aren't "giving them your fingerprints", that really isn't how those biometric "fingerprint" clocks work...
    – Ron Beyer
    Sep 22, 2020 at 19:24
  • 7
    @RonBeyer of course you are giving them your biometric data - that’s what get stored in a database you verify that future swipes are you. It may not be a fingerprint in the classic Sherlock Holmes sense but it is a record of your fingerprint.
    – Dale M
    Sep 22, 2020 at 20:54
  • 2
    @DaleM Not really, these biometric fingerprint scanners don't store a fingerprint at all, just a couple data points (some scanners use as little as 3 or 4). You can't take that data and regenerate a fingerprint... It's basically some X/Y point data. They really can't be used in any forensic manner. Granted it may be identifying, but it's not something like a criminal process.
    – Ron Beyer
    Sep 22, 2020 at 21:00
  • 1
    @RonBeyer It does work in the sense that if you have finger prints from somewhere else you can check these against the stores scanner and see whether it is the finger print of fivemoose or not. So the finger prints are stored in the sense that if you have a finger print from some other source, you can use this scanner to attach a name to it.
    – quarague
    Sep 23, 2020 at 7:38
  • I am not disagreeing with your concerns at all, but just noting that unless you routinely wear gloves they probably already have your fingerprints. They just want your help identifying which prints belong to which employee.
    – emory
    Sep 23, 2020 at 12:08

1 Answer 1


You can probably refuse

A contract cannot be changed unilaterally unless the contract provides for unilateral change - its unlikely your contract does. In any event, the person with such a power of unilateral change has to exercise it reasonably.

It is an implied term of employment contracts that the employee must obey the lawful and reasonable directions of the employer. So the question is, is the requirement to use a fingerprint time clock both lawful and reasonable?

Well, at first blush, without genuine consent on your part (and "do it or get fired" is not genuine consent) this would appear to breach the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. The biometric data of your finger is personal information and, as such, it can only be collected with your consent.

A similar factual case was decided in (Note: the Australian law will be different in some ways from the Canadian law but they both require consent for collection) last year in that way.

  • Is the fact that fingerprints are shed by people all the time addressed in the law or any cases?
    – grovkin
    Sep 23, 2020 at 23:26
  • Is there a reason to link to the Queensland tag page given there's no questions actually tagged as such?
    – Robotnik
    Sep 25, 2020 at 5:05
  • @Robotnik there might be one day
    – Dale M
    Sep 25, 2020 at 5:26
  • I doubt any contract of employment would specify exactly how an employee is required to clock on and off, even if it specified that they are required to do so at the start and end of each work shift.
    – alephzero
    Jul 14, 2021 at 23:29

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