Class action: Lexis Nexis classifies women as thieves

Kelly Holleran May 9, 2011, 8:44am

Two women have filed a putative class action lawsuit against the company that they claim has labeled them as thieves, causing them to be denied employment opportunities.

Keesha Goode and Victoria Goodman claim their attempts to gain employment and to advance their careers were thwarted after defendant Lexis Nexis Risk and Information Analytics Group provided employers with information that classified the women as thieves.

In the complaint filed May 3 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Goode says she applied for a job at Family Dollar, but was denied the position after Lexis Nexis provided the store with a report that indicated Goode had stolen $34.97 worth of products from her former employer, Foreman Mills.

Goode claims the information in the report was not true and cost her the opportunity for employment.

She disputed the accuracy of the report to Lexis Nexis, saying, “I was accused of not reporting on a former employee who was stealing merchandise, but I did not steal anything myself,” according to the complaint.

Goode knew there could be severe ramifications of the information included in the report. A number of large retail chains subscribe to Lexis Nexis’ computer system, Esteem, which generates reports to help employers identify applicants with a history of theft or fraud, the suit states.

Many large chain employers use the system in the final stages of the employment process, just before they plan to hire a person, the complaint says. As long as the potential employee passes the Lexis Nexis check, he/she is hired. But if an applicant fails the check, the retail chain will probably refuse to hire him/her.

Employers can create adverse reports of their employees if they believe employees are guilty of theft. Reports include the type of offense, the date of the incident and the amount of the theft. They are submitted to a nationwide database, the plaintiffs claim.

When a potential employer finds an applicant’s name on Lexis Nexis’s database, Esteem generates a pre-adverse action notice to the applicant. The notice is meant to inform applicants of their alleged violations and allows them to dispute information included in it, according to the complaint.

However, Goode claims her dispute did her no good and that Lexis Nexis merely replied that it had verified the information included in the report, the suit states.

Goode attempted to retrieve additional information from Lexis Nexis to discover what material they had relied on to conduct their re-investigation, but has received no response from the company, the complaint says.

Goodman claims she, too, suffered unfavorable employment consequences after her employer utilized the Lexis Nexis system.

Goodman had worked for Rite Aid for three years when she applied for a position as store supervisor, according to her complaint.

Before promoting Goodman to the position, Rite Aid utilized Esteem, the suit states. Goodman’s name popped up in the database, accusing her of stealing $100 worth of merchandise from her former employer, Dollar General, the complaint says.

Because of the report, Rite Aid not only refused to promote Goodman, but fired her from her position as a cashier, she claims.

Goodman admits Dollar General did fire her for a possible theft, but claims she was never charged with a crime and did receive unemployment benefits from the store following her termination.

Eventually, Goodman was rehired as a cashier at Rite Aid, but faces impediments to future promotions, according to the complaint.

Goodman and Goode claim the Lexis Nexis database violates their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act by failing to provide them and others with a copy of the report before contacting their potential employers.  In addition, Lexis Nexis fails to provide potential employers with all information in an applicant’s file when it provides a report, the suit states.

In their complaint, Goodman and Goode are asking the court to certify the class action, to order the creation of a common fund to provide notice and remedy Lexis Nexis’s Fair Credit Reporting Act violations and to provide them and the class with statutory and punitive damages. In addition, they are seeking attorney’s fees, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief the court deems just.

Irv Ackelsberg, Howard I. Langer, John J. Grogan and Edward A. Diver of Langer, Grogan and Diver in Philadelphia; James A. Francis and Mark D. Mailman of Francis and Mailman in Philadelphia; Sharon M. Dietrich and Nadia Hewka of Community Legal Services in Philadelphia; and Leonard A. Bennett of Consumer Litigation Associates in Newport News, Va., are representing the plaintiffs.

U.S. District Court case number: 2:11-cv-2950.

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