Whole Foods Market Group, Inc. (“Whole Foods”), the giant grocery retailer, is just one of the latest companies to be sued for allegedly violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) during employment background checks. Earlier this year, in a California District Court, Whole Foods was sued for allegedly using invalid authorization forms during employment background checks and for conducting background checks during their online application process without first obtaining applicant approval.
According to the complaint, a plaintiff/applicant submitted an online application with the retailer. To submit the application, the plaintiff had to agree to a consent form that was filled with extraneous information, including release of liability for any company receiving or providing information during the background check and a waiver of the applicant’s right to receive a copy of any public record. The plaintiff submitted the consent form and after the background check was completed, he was asked to sign a second consent form that appeared to be in compliance with the FCRA.
This class action suit is aimed to include thousands of applicants who applied online for employment with Whole Foods from February 2009 through the present time. The plaintiffs alleged that Whole Foods’ violations are two-fold. First, the FCRA requires a signed authorization and disclosure form from the applicant, known as a “Consent Form”. This form must only contain the required authorization and disclosure and may not include any additional information. The applicants argue that the online application contained unnecessary information that may have been confusing. Second, the “Consent Form” must be presented to the applicant and signed prior to conducting the background check. The applicants argue no such form was offered until after the background check was completed.
This class action lawsuit among others against major retailers including Kmart, Swift Transportation Company, Dollar General and The Walt Disney Company, shows that compliance is the key to avoiding a suit for violations of the FCRA. Employers found in violation of the statute are responsible for actual or statutory damages sustained by the applicant, potential punitive damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.
If your rights have been violated under the FCRA during an employment background check and you would like the assistance of advice of counsel, contact SmithMarco P.C. for a completely free case review.