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Whole Foods faces class action suit over criminal background checks

Whole Foods faces class action suit over criminal background checks

A putative class action lawsuit has been filled against a Fresno, Calif.-based Whole Foods Market Inc. unit, charging that its online form seeking job applicants’ approval for criminal background check violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

According to the lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif., in Esayas Gezahegne v. Whole Foods Market California Inc., the language in the authorization includes a waiver of claims against those who obtain a consumer reports, in violation of the FCRA. Consumer reports include criminal background checks, credit checks and other similar reports.

The lawsuit charges that the application form has been presented to Whole Foods job applicants since January 2009. It seeks damages of up to $1,000 for each individual from whom Whole Foods obtained a consumer report without valid authorization, plus punitive damages and costs.

“The online authorization forms all contained language releasing those who obtained the consumer reports from all liability, in violation of the FCRA’ s requirement that the authorizations be pristine documents that contain nothing other than the required disclosures and the requested authorization. In other words, defendant’s authorization forms were facially invalid,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit states there are thousands of individuals in the class.

The plaintiff in the case began working at Whole Foods in May 2011. He no longer works there, according to his attorney, Craig J. Ackermann of Ackermann & Tilajef P.C. in Los Angeles, who said he could provide no further information on Mr. Gezahegne’s job history at the natural foods retailer.

A spokesman for Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods could not immediately be reached for comment.