Starbucks Hiring Snafu Brews Up Background Check Lawsuit (UPDATED)

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By Jon Steingart

Starbucks Corp. failed to give a job applicant an opportunity to correct an inaccurate background check before it decided to revoke a conditional job offer, according to a lawsuit filed in a federal court.

Kevin Wills didn’t anticipate any problems because he had no criminal history and previously worked as a Starbucks barista. The company that Starbucks hired to conduct the background check returned information for another person who had a name similar to Wills and lived in a state where he had never lived, he says in the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ( Wills v. Starbucks Corp. , N.D. Ga., No. 1:17-cv-03654, complaint filed 9/20/17 ).

Based on a report that someone named Kevin Willis was involved in domestic violence, Starbucks revoked Wills’ conditional offer of employment without first providing him a copy of the report or giving him a chance to alert the company to the error, in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, he says.

The background check company, Accurate Background Inc., mailed Wills a copy of the report after Starbucks notified him he wouldn’t be hired, he says. At that point, he had already been harmed by Starbucks’ failure to provide him a copy before it took an adverse action, he says.

Starbucks says the facts alleged in Wills’ lawsuit are wrong. “Starbucks complies with FCRA guidelines and ensure we provide prospective employees with a copy of a background check when making hiring decisions based on that report,” a company spokesman told Bloomberg BNA.

Giving Applicants a Chance

Starbucks and other large employers in recent years have adopted “ban the box” policies that delay criminal record inquiries until after a conditional job offer is made. Advocates say it gives applicants a chance to demonstrate their qualifications rather than face automatic disqualification as a result of checking “yes” on a box on the job application that asks about criminal history.

An attorney for Wills didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment.

Skaar & Feagle LLP attorneys James Feagle and Cliff Dorsen in Tucker, Ga., and Kris Skaar and Justin Holcombe in Woodstock, Ga. represent Wills.

An attorney hasn’t yet entered an appearance for Starbucks.

(Story has been updated to reflect Starbucks’ position on the complaint.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at jsteingart@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

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