Publix to pay $6.8 million to job applicants

Published Oct. 29, 2014

Publix Super Markets Inc. is scheduled to pay nearly $6.8 million in a class-action lawsuit settlement over background checks.

The lawsuit, being handled in Tennessee federal court, alleges that Lakeland-based Publix violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by not making legally required disclosures about background checks to job applicants.

Publix has denied any wrongdoing and was not found liable in court, but agreed to the settlement "because of the substantial expense of litigation ... and the disruption to its business operations," according to legal documents filed in July.

The settlement class totals 90,633 people who would receive roughly $48 each after lawyers' expenses.

A Publix spokesman declined to discuss the case and lawyers for the plaintiffs could not be reached for comment.

The settlement includes people who applied for work at Publix and were subjected to background checks during the period March 12, 2012, to May 13, 2014.

The lead plaintiff in the case, Erin Knights, applied for a job with Publix in early 2013 through an electronic kiosk at a store in Hendersonville, Tenn. The lawsuit says Publix's application process included an authorization for a background check, but says it "blatantly violated" an FCRA rule that requires businesses obtaining a consumer report for employment purposes to notify the applicant "in a document consisting solely of the disclosure."

The lawsuit said the "disclosure requirements are important because they enable consumers to control and correct the information that is being disseminated about them by third parties."

The lawsuit also claims Publix included language in its job applications that would cause applicants to waive certain legal rights regarding background checks.

Publix said it has since made changes to its applications concerning background checks.

The settlement appears to be headed for final approval by the court.