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Federal suit accuses Wegmans of FCRA violations

Potential class action could include tens of thousands of members


09.21.2011 ABINGDON, MD- Photo of people shopping at the New Wegmans market in Abingdon, MD. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz).

A federal lawsuit accuses Wegmans, whose Abingdon store is shown here, of improperly requiring job applicants to release the company from any liability tied to information found in background checks. Wegmans say it stands by its job-screening process. (File Photo/Maximilian Franz)

A federal class-action complaint has been filed by workers against Wegmans Food Markets Inc. under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

According to the suit filed Saturday in U.S. District Court in Rochester, Wegmans improperly requires job applicants to sign a form releasing the company from liability related to potential claims tied to information that might be found in background checks.

And the court filing claims the release that prospective employees must sign to apply for a job does not include “a conspicuous disclosure, in a document consisting solely of the disclosure, that Wegmans would cause a consumer report to be procured.”

In an emailed statement, Wegmans spokesperson Jo Natale wrote: “We are confident that our process for screening job applicants, including the disclosure that a background check will be conducted, fully complies with federal law.”

The suit claims that plaintiffs Ashleigh Wheeler and Jerah Brewster, the potential class representatives, “were misled as to the nature and purpose of their consent and their rights.”

Wheeler and Brewster were not aware that they could request a copy of the report that Wegmans obtained and did not request one, according to the suit.

Wheeler, of Rochester, applied for a job online in April 2013 and was hired to work as a cashier.

Brewster, who lives in Ithaca, applied online in October 2015, worked as a pharmacy technician and later as a coffee shop assistant.

They are represented by Thomas & Solomon LLP. Attorneys of the firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Wheeler and Brewster were not only misled by defendant, but they were subject to a significant invasion of privacy that could jeopardize their personal reputation as well as financial well-being,” according to the 11-page complaint.

Wegmans employs about 46,000 workers at 90 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts, according to the suit. In 2015, Wegmans had annual sales of $7.9 billion, according to the suit.

The potential class includes all job applicants who had a report procured by Wegmans in the past five years.

“The size and scale of Wegmans’ operations ensures that the number of members in the class will be in the tens of thousands,” according to the suit.

Each class member is entitled to receive between $200 and $2,000, plus costs and attorneys’ fees, under federal law, according to the suit.

In summary, the plaintiffs are asking: To have the complaint certified as a class action suit; to have Wheeler and Brewster designated as class representatives who should receive special payment; and that Thomas & Solomon LLP be designated as counsel for the class.

The complaint also seeks punitive damages, but does not specify an amount.