Court of Appeal: Summary Judgment Against Plaintiffs Challenging Starbucks' Application

California employers cannot ask applicants to disclose certain convictions for marijuana-related misdemeanors that are more than two years old. Starbucks knew that, and included a disclaimer on the back of its application, viz:

CALIFORNIA APPLICANTS ONLY: Applicant may omit any convictions for the possession of marijuana (except for convictions for the possessions of marijuana on school grounds or possession of concentrated cannabis) that are more than two (2) years old, and any information concerning a referral to, and participation in, any pretrial or post trial diversion program.”

Although that may read like a proper disclaimer, it was included in a larger paragraph of disclaimers located away from the general convictions question, which did not exclude such marijuana convictions. So, the California disclaimer did nothing to stop Erik Lords and his band of merry putative classmembers from filing suit, claiming the application form was defective. Erik and co. wanted about $26 million in penalties. Aggrieved applicants get a penalty of $200 or actual damages for faulty applications.

The court of appeal agreed with the trial court and the plaintiffs that the general disclaimer was improperly placed away from the general convictions question. Had the properly worded disclaimer been placed next to the conviction question, it would have been legally correct, the court said.

But the court of appeal detected a couple of problems with Lords' prayer. [I kill me]. First of all, none of the named plaintiffs had a marijuana conviction. Second, all had read the allegedly hidden language. Third, none was denied employment because of a wrongfully disclosed conviction.

So, the court said:

We see nothing in the statute to support plaintiffs’ claim that the Legislature ntended to protect the privacy interests of job applicants who had no marijuana convictions in their background. As we explain below, we decline to adopt an interpretation that would turn the statute into a veritable financial bonanza for litigants like plaintiffs who had no fear of stigmatizing marijuana convictions.
The case is Lords v. Starbucks and the opinion is here.