CINCINNATI - Two years after she said the Kroger Co. rejected her job application, a Virginia woman has filed a class-action lawsuit alleging the Cincinnati-based grocery chain systematically violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
It’s the second class-action lawsuit since February to challenge the employment practices of Kroger, which has hired more than 30,000 new employees in the last three years and received 116,000 applications in a 35-state job fair May 14.
Delores Reid of Newport News claims Kroger rejected her application based on erroneous information in a consumer report prepared by its South Carolina-based vendor, General Information Services. The lawsuit alleges Reid wasn’t permitted to correct the report before a hiring decision was made.
“Every year, thousands of consumers who have applied to Kroger for employment have been similarly aggrieved,” said the lawsuit, filed June 30 in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.
Kroger said it doesn’t comment on pending legal matters. GIS did not return a call seeking comment.
According to the lawsuit, Reid was offered a job at Kroger in June 2014, “subject to a drug screening and background check.” She passed the drug test but was designated “not clear for hire” after GIS “erroneously reported Reid’s misdemeanor assault charge as a felony conviction.” She reported the error within five business days and it was corrected two days after that. But Kroger never reversed its hiring decision.
“Reid never had a meaningful opportunity to dispute GIS’s automatic adjudication,” her complaint alleges.
Reid filed the complaint on behalf of all Kroger applicants who were classified as “not clear for hire” after Kroger received GIS reports on them since June 30, 2011. The lawsuit estimates the class size as “hundreds or thousands of applicants.”
Kroger also faces a class-action lawsuit in federal court, after three employees of a Blue Ash call center alleged the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying them overtime. Those employees “consistently worked more than 40 hours each week,” but were improperly classified by the company as exempt from overtime.
Kroger has argued in court filings that the workers were “properly classified” and “paid all compensation to which they were entitled.” Kroger also argued the case shouldn’t be tried as a class action and is “substantially without merit.”
The “big fight” in both cases will be the issue of class certification, said Richard Bales, dean of the Ohio Northern University’s College of Law.
“If the plaintiffs are successful in getting the case certified, that will put a lot of pressure on Kroger to settle, because the potential damages in a class-action employment case can be high,” Bales said. “However, if Kroger is successful in getting the cases decertified, chances are small that the plaintiffs will try to proceed individually, because the potential damages in most if not all of the individual cases will be outweighed by the cost of litigation.”
Bales, a former faculty member at Chase College of Law in Northern Kentucky, has authored five books on labor law.
“Over the last several years, the Supreme Court has made it increasingly difficult for plaintiffs - including employees - to bring class actions,” he said. “Recent Supreme Court decisions have emphasized that the mere existence of one or a few common questions is not enough to maintain a class action. Those common questions must predominate over differences among the defendants.”