LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) - In September, a woman filed
charges against Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. over allegations that the
national restaurant chain violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act in its
The plaintiff, Lorena Mejia, claimed that the company’s consent and
disclosure forms included provisions of false information, at-will
provisions, a post-employment authorization and a reference to a
provision that would allow for the company to conduct a background check
on the applicant, all of which were allegedly not in compliance with
FCRA serves to uphold policies that prevent employers from obtaining
private information and requires that they provide a written summary of
rights, which Chipotle also reportedly neglected to include in the
David Anthony is an attorney at Troutman Sanders in Richmond, Va., with
extensive experience in this type FCRA litigation. According to Anthony,
FCRA cases are filed on a daily basis across the country, and the trend
has been increasing steadily.
“Settlements in certain types of FCRA cases have been fairly substantial
in the recent years. In addition, the use of background checks during
the employment on boarding process is almost a given for most employment
opportunities, so the FCRA impacts employers of all shapes and sizes,”
For example, one national employer, Whole Foods Market Group, was hit
with a class action FCRA lawsuit that it subsequently settled last
September for including a waiver and liability release in their FCRA
“The FCRA is a highly technical statute that has requirements that are
deceptively simple. These specific and surprisingly technical
requirements that must be followed in order for an employer to use a
consumer report to make an employment decision make it easy for an
employer to violate the FCRA if it does not have proper guidance on FCRA
compliance,” Anthony said.
Along with the FCRA allegation, the plaintiff alleged that Chipotle
violated the Investigative Reporting Agencies Act (ICRAA), the Consumer
Credit Reporting Agencies Acts (CCRA) and California Business and
Professions Code. These allegations cite similar charges and a complaint
that there was no box to check for Mejia to receive a copy of the
When the plaintiff filed her claim, she hoped to initiate a nationwide
suit for all Chipotle applicants within the past two years who were
subject to the same documents. However, Mejia voluntarily dismissed the
case without prejudice on Oct. 27.
Though the case did not end in settlement, employers, Anthony said, can learn from cases like Mejia v. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. Background
screenings are now an integral part of the hiring process for most
companies, public or private, and the legal proceedings for violating
the FCRA can be expensive and damaging to the company name, he said.
“Employers who are relying on background checks to screen their
applicants and employees need to engage competent and experienced
compliance counsel to review the processes that are used to conduct
these background checks and the processes used when an employer uses a
consumer report," he said.
"Courts continue to issue rulings on
these technical FCRA requirements; therefore, complying with them is not
a 'set it and forget it' process.
"Instead, employers may take
proactive steps to ensure that their processes and forms remain current
and legally compliant given the considerable exposure and litigation
risk for non-compliance."