Womble Bond Dickinson

Two pending class action lawsuits alleging coffee giant Starbucks violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) by relying on flawed background reports to decline employment to over 8,000 job applicants will likely settle in the coming months.  The two suits are being consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia for the purpose of a directing notice to a single nationwide class.

Before taking adverse action against an applicant based on a background report, 15 U.S.C. §1681b(b)(3) requires the employer to provide the applicant with a copy of the report and a written summary of the applicant’s rights under 15 U.S.C. §1681g(c)(1).  The purpose of this requirement is to allow the applicant an opportunity to correct any errors on the report before the adverse action is taken.

In the first suit, pending in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the lead plaintiff, Jonathan Santiago Rosario (“Rosario”), alleges that he was denied employment as a Starbucks barista based on an inaccurate background report Starbucks obtained from Accurate Background, Inc. (“Accurate Background”).  Rosario claims he was taken out of consideration for the position based on several criminal charges and convictions that appeared on his report.  Rosario maintains that the report was inaccurate and that Starbucks took the adverse action weeks before he was provided with the report and the written summary of rights.  Rosario argues that he never had a meaningful opportunity to dispute the report and that Starbucks never reconsidered him for the position.

Similarly, the lead plaintiff in the second suit, Kevin Wills (“Wills”) of Georgia, alleges that Starbucks took adverse employment action against him without providing proper notice and a written summary of rights under FCRA.  Starbucks allegedly hired Wills pending the results of his criminal background check.  Starbucks allegedly received a report from Accurate Background stating that “Kevin Willis” of Minnesota had two prior convictions for domestic violence.  As a result of the report, Starbucks informed Wills over the telephone that he could not work for Starbucks.  Days later, Wills received a letter enclosing the background report.

According to an April 17, 2019 order issued by Judge Richard Jones, who presides over the Rosario action, the parties from both cases jointly participated in several sessions with a private mediator and have reached an agreement in principle to settle both cases on a class basis.

On April 24, 2019, Magistrate Judge Catherine M. Salinas issued a report and recommendation in the Wills case recommending that the Clerk in the Northern District of Georgia consolidate the Rosario case into the Wills case.  After fourteen days, if no party objects, the cases will likely be consolidated.

To date, no details about the terms of the settlement have been released.

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