On January 30th, A Florida federal judge denied Amazon.com’s motion to dismiss a class action by job applicants accusing the online retailer of violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act through its background check process.
Plaintiffs argued that Amazon violated the FCRA by failing to provide two separate forms for the job application and the background check authorization for employment at a Florida-based fulfillment center. It should be noted that this case is a consolidation of two separate background check litigation suits.
U.S. District Judge Lazzara agreed with the plaintiffs that the alleged failure to receive a stand-alone disclosure document is not hypothetical or uncertain, and can plausibly constitute an injury of fact. The judge found that Amazon’s actions related to the disclosure violations were willful, as a liability waiver was included with the background check policy. He stated, “The plaintiffs have at least three kinds of harm: invasion of privacy, informational harm and risk of harm.” He added that it is possible the company did not follow the proper steps to receive approval for the checks. All of this convinced the judge that Article III standing is sufficiently established in this case.
The judge disagreed with arguments by Amazon that the applicants had no viable claim based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo v. Robins, which found that consumers must allege concrete injury instead of a technical statutory violation to establish standing.
Simply put, Plaintiffs sued alleging their background checks were unauthorized because the authorizations did not comply with the FCRA.
There’s an important lesson for employers here. Ensure your hiring process is FCRA compliant! The FCRA expressly requires employers to provide applicants with a stand-alone disclosure and authorization form prior to obtaining a background check. Unfortunately, many employers still fail to comply with this law and find themselves embroiled in costly lawsuits. This lawsuit is a reminder that employers should periodically review their hiring processes to ensure strict compliance.
Hargrett v. Amazon.com Inc.