A recent opinion issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted an employer’s motion for summary judgment, rejecting a series of technical arguments advanced by the plaintiff that the employer’s background check authorization forms violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

In Keefer v. Ryder Integrated Logistics, Inc. (Ryder Integrated), the plaintiff applied to work for the defendant. As part of the employment application process, Ryder Integrated provided the plaintiff with a disclosure and authorization form to perform a background investigation. The background investigation disclosure provided that: “By signing below, you hereby authorize the Company to procure report(s) on your background as described above from any third-party or consumer reporting agency contacted by the Company.”

Although the plaintiff signed the disclosure, he then sued Ryder Integrated contending the disclosures were not compliant with the FCRA. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that the disclosures: 1) were not clear and conspicuous; and 2) were not contained in a standalone document. Ryder Integrated moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted the motion.

The district court first addressed whether the disclosure satisfied the FCRA’s “clear and conspicuous” requirement. The district court held that the phrase “third-party agency or consumer reporting agency” did not create confusion as to the person or entity used to compile the report. Further, the district court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the phrase “the Company” was unclear because it did not specify which company would be obtaining the consumer report. Because the plaintiff applied for a position with Ryder Integrated and provided his consent for the employer to procure a consumer report as part of the employment process, the use of the term “the Company” did not prevent the disclosure from being clear and conspicuous. Finally, the district court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the use of multiple disclosures violates the FCRA’s conspicuousness requirement. Instead, the district court concluded that the disclosure was “readily noticeable” to the consumer despite the use of multiple disclosures in the same document.

The district court next found that the disclosure also satisfied the standalone document requirement. Under the FCRA, the relevant disclosure must be presented as a standalone document without any extraneous information. The district court rejected the plaintiff’s contention that the Ryder Integrated logo and trademark, navigation buttons, and an “Application FAQs” hyperlink were extraneous information that should not have been presented together with the disclosure and authorization form. The plaintiff further argued that Ryder Integrated’s inclusion of a statement that “the Company” could request reports about education, credit history, or character was extraneous. Instead, the district court found that the contested language merely provided the applicant with useful information regarding the purposes for which Ryder Integrated may use his consumer report. Thus, the district court found that the phrases and statements found within the disclosure did not violate the FCRA’s standalone document requirement.

Troutman Pepper will continue to monitor developments in FCRA litigation and post updates.