Class Action Lawsuit Alleges Natural Food Retailer Violated FCRA with Background Checks

A class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleges Whole Foods Market, a natural and organic food retailer, obtained background checks on job applicants using consent forms that were not legally valid in violation of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), according to a report from TopClassActions.com available at http://www.topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/16770-whole-foods-hit-class-action-lawsuit-illegal-background-checks/.

The lawsuit claims Whole Foods “obtained consumer reports on plaintiff and similarly situated persons without having obtained facially valid FCRA authorization forms” and that the online form used to authorize a background check on job applicants at the super market frees those who acquire the reports from all liability “in violation of FCRA’s requirement that the authorizations be pristine documents that contain nothing other than the required disclosures and the requested authorization.”

The plaintiff – an Alameda County resident and former Whole Foods employee – applied for a job in April 2011 and began working in May 2011. The plaintiff claims the ‘consent’ form that he signed to authorize the background check stated in part: “I hereby release the company, my former employers and all other persons, corporations, partnerships and associations from any and all claims, demands or liabilities arising out of or in any way related to such investigation or disclosure.”

The lawsuit claims Whole Foods used invalid “consumer reports on thousands of applicants and employees in violation of the FCRA” and is asking that Whole Foods pay $1,000 to each class member for the violation. If certified, the class action will be for all individuals who gave Whole Foods permission to obtain a background check through its online authorization forms from January 28, 2009 to the present. The case is Gezahegne v. Whole Foods Market California Inc., Case No. 4:14-cv-00592.

Class action lawsuits for failing to perform background checks properly are becoming more prevalent given the need for employers to exercise due diligence in hiring and at the same time comply with the complex legal environment regulating hiring. This trend is one of the Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) ‘Top Ten Background Check Trends’ for 2014 by ESR Founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen. The full list of trends is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/ESR-Top-Ten-Background-Check-Trends.

Related ESR News Blog: http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2013/12/24/class-action-lawsuits-for-failing-to-perform-background-checks-properly-becoming-even-more-prevalent/

About Employment Screening Resources® (ESR):

Founded by safe hiring expert Attorney Lester Rosen in the San Francisco, CA-area in 1997, Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority®’– provides accurate and actionable information that empowers employers to make informed hiring decisions for the benefit of their organizations, employees, and the public. CEO Rosen literally wrote the book on background checks with “The Safe Hiring Manual” and ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), a distinction held by a small percent of screening firms. ESR provides Effortless Legal Compliance, Proven Expertise, Less Work/Lower Cost, Results You Can Trust, and Painless Migration. Employers choosing ESR know they have selected an agency meeting the highest industry standards. To learn more about ESR, visit http://www.esrcheck.com, call toll free 888.999.4474, or email sales@esrcheck.com.