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Amazon and staffing firm sued over background checks

A South Carolina man sued Amazon and staffing provider Staff Management | SMX claiming rejection for a “puller” job at Amazon based on results of a background check despite not receiving a copy of the report or a summary of rights, according to court records. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires workers receive copies of such reports prior to negative decisions in order to allow opportunity to point out errors, according to the suit.

Gregory Williams of Irmo, S.C., filed the suit April 7 in federal court in Washington state (Amazon.com is based in Seattle). It seeks class action status to represent all workers rejected for positions at both Amazon and Staff Management based on background check reports and who were not shown the reports prior to the negative decisions. It seeks to include all such people from five years before the filing of the lawsuit through its resolution.

Williams applied for the job in November 2013. It would have paid $10.50 an hour and been temporary with possibility of becoming permanent.

However, a background check done on Williams by Sterling Infosystems Inc. revealed a misdemeanor for an open container and a felony conviction for possession of cocaine. The suit says the misdemeanor belonged to Williams, but the felony cocaine conviction did not. It also claims the companies denied Williams the job based on the results before showing him the report and allowing him to correct it.

The suit argues Williams could have qualified for the position with just the open-container misdemeanor.

Staffing buyers should be wary as suits such as this appear on the rise.

“This is becoming more and more common, where a company allegedly does not comply with all of the technical requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act,” said Jason Kunschke, an attorney with law firm Michael Best & Friedrich LLP. “It is important to have all background check procedures reviewed and to make sure that you are fully compliant, as class action lawsuits are being filed at a rapid pace. With the number of background checks a company may run, potential liability can rapidly grow.”

Eric Rumbaugh, a partner with Michael Best, will speak next week at the 2015 CWS Summit Europe in Amsterdam in a panel discussion on the global legal climate.

This Amazon case is new, but a case against another of Amazon’s staffing providers was decided by the Supreme Court [1] earlier this year. Workers in that suit argued time spent waiting to go through a metal detector at the end of shift was compensable, but the top court ruled that wasn’t the case.

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