Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn
On January 17, 2019, a California federal judge certified a class of approximately five million people who applied for a job at Walmart to pursue a class action lawsuit – Randy Pitre v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (Case No. 8:17-cv-01281-DOC-DFM) – that claims the retail giant added extraneous information to background check disclosure notices issued to applicants in violation of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
Walmart FCRA Class Action Lawsuit
Judge David O. Carter granted the Motion for Class Certification in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California for the class action lawsuit in which lead plaintiff Randy Pitre – who worked for Walmart in November 2015 – claimed Walmart improperly obtained background checks on applicants and employees with a job application that was out of compliance with the FCRA from 2012 until 2015.
According to the complaint filed in July 2017, Section 1681 b(b )(2)(A)(i) of the FCRA requires that a “clear and conspicuous” disclosure be made to consumers before a “consumer report” – the FCRA’s term for a background check report – is procured. Also, the disclosure that a consumer report may be obtained for employment purposes must be made “in a document that consists solely of the disclosure.”
However, the class action lawsuit claimed Walmart’s job applications included extraneous and confusing information instead of providing a clear and concise disclosure about the background check in violation of the FCRA. The complaint also claimed Walmart violated the California Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (ICRAA) and the California Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act (CCRAA).
In August 2017, ESR News reported that the lawsuit claimed Walmart “failed to provide adequate notice of the consumer report as well as failed to secure legal authorization to obtain it” by not providing a “clear and conspicuous” disclosure and that the background check disclosures were “embedded with extraneous information” and “not clear and unambiguous disclosures in stand-alone documents.”
Enacted in 1970, the FCRA 15 U.S.C. § 1681 promotes the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of consumer information contained in the files of consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), protects consumers from the willful and/or negligent inclusion of inaccurate information in their credit reports, and regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information, including consumer credit information.
Improper disclosures for background checks that are not a “standalone” document and violate the FCRA can be costly. Similar FCRA lawsuits settled for millions of dollars include Delta Air Lines agreeing to pay $2.3 million in January 2019, Omincare paying a $1.3 million settlement in August 2018, a subsidiary of PepsiCo paying $1.2 million in July 2018, and Frito-Lay Inc. paying a $2.4 million settlement in April 2018.
Costly class action lawsuits involving the FCRA will not be the only compliance concern for employers performing background checks in an increasingly complex legal environment that includes “Ban the Box” and salary history laws. This trend has been chosen by global background check provider Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) as one of the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2019.
NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) reminds readers that allegations alone made in class action lawsuits are not proof that a business or person violated any law, rule, or regulation.
ESR White Papers on FCRA Lawsuits
Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check provider – offers employers a White Paper Library that includes two complimentary white papers that examine the causes that lead to FCRA lawsuits: “Common Ways Prospective or Current Employees Sue Employers Under the FCRA” and “Common Ways Consumer Reporting Agencies are Sued Under the FCRA.”
NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.
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