LinkedIn Granted Motion to Dismiss in FCRA Lawsuit

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Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

A federal judge in the Northern District of California has granted a motion to dismiss in a class action lawsuit against LinkedIn Corporation that claimed the online professional networking website’s “References Searches” function violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). A copy of the ruling is at http://www.esrcheck.com/file/Sweet-v-LinkedIn_Motion-to-Dismiss.pdf.

In a 21-page opinion, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal ruled that LinkedIn could not be considered a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) as defined by the FCRA. Judge Grewal also found that the “Reference Searches” reports offered by LinkedIn did not fall within the FRCA’s definition of a “consumer report.” Because of this, the court granted LinkedIn’s motion to dismiss.

Judge Grewal ruled that the Plaintiffs fell short of the requirement to “have alleged sufficient facts to support a plausible inference that the Reference Searches are within the FRCA’s definition of a consumer report.” The three reasons given by Judge Grewal were:

  • First, LinkedIn’s publications of employment histories of the consumers who are the subjects of the Reference Searches are not consumer reports because the information contained in these histories came solely from LinkedIn’s transactions or experiences with these same consumers.
  • Second, even if the LinkedIn’s publications of the employment histories of the consumer-subjects of the Reference Searches were not within the transaction or experience exception, they still would not be consumer reports because Plaintiffs’ allegations do not raise a plausible inference that LinkedIn acts as a consumer reporting agency when it publishes these histories.
  • Third, Plaintiffs’ allegations are insufficient to state a claim that the list of names and other information about the references included in the Reference Search bears on the “character, general reputation, mode of living” and other relevant characteristics of the consumers who are the subjects of these searches.

However, Judge Grewal also granted leave to amend, allowing the Plaintiffs to file any amended complaint by May 19, 2015. The class action lawsuit is Tracee Sweet, et al v. LinkedIn Corporation, Case No. 3:14-cv-04531, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The original complaint is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/file/Sweet-v-LinkedIn-Corporation.pdf.

As reported earlier on the ESR News Blog, the class action lawsuit filed in October 2014 against LinkedIn was filed by four plaintiffs who believed the “References Searches” function of LinkedIn cost them jobs. LinkedIn – an online network of professionals with more than 300 million members – allows users to search for references on network members through a “Search for References” link.

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