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By: Koty Newman
On January 17, 2019, a Federal District Court in California certified a class of five million Walmart applicants. The Class Representatives allege that Walmart failed to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act’s (“FCRA”) disclosure requirements by including extraneous information in its disclosure forms, thus violating disclosure and authorization requirements. The Class Representatives also allege that Walmart obtained investigative reports without informing the applicants of their right to request a written summary of their rights under the FCRA.
For a court to certify a class, the court must find that the proposed class satisfies the four requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a): numerosity, typicality, commonality, and adequacy of representation. The facts of this case were tailor-made to meet these requirements. The Court noted that with the proposed class of five million applicants and employees, the class would be so numerous that joining all the members would be impracticable. The Court also found that the Class Representatives would adequately represent the class and vigorously prosecute the action on behalf of the class.
The requirements of typicality and commonality overlap to some degree, and the Court found that both were satisfied in this case. The Class Representatives, as applicants to Walmart, were found to be typical of the class because their interests align with those of the class. Finally, the case satisfied the commonality requirement given that every person in the class allegedly encountered similar confusing extraneous material in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act during their application process to Walmart. Each class member also allegedly was not informed of his or her right to request a written summary of his or her rights. The Court found these common issues would predominate the adjudication of the case, even though there may be small factual differences among individuals in the class. Thus, the Court held that it made practical sense to certify the class and resolve all of these individual’s problems in one case, rather than five million cases.
The Court also noted that this case presents more than a mere technical violation of the FCRA. The Class Representatives have, in essence, alleged that Walmart accessed their personal information in violation of their protected rights, a concrete harm.
This ongoing case serves as a warning to employers across the United States who conduct background investigations; comply with the FCRA, or you may face the prospect of having all those applicants come back to haunt you in a class action. If you have any questions or need help with an FCRA case, please contact one of our attorneys for guidance.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Koty Newman at [email protected].