Updated: August 2019

Connor v. First Student

Consumer Action joined an amicus brief in support of plaintiffs over their employer’s violations of California's Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (ICRAA) in the Connor v. First Student appeal. The state ICRAA and the state Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act (CCRAA) regulate entities that gather background information on consumers for employers, landlords and others to use in making employment, rental and other decisions. The ICRAA governs agencies conducting investigative consumer reports (reports containing information on a consumer's character, general reputation, personal characteristics or mode of living). The CCRAA governs agencies compiling information about consumers’ credit use (reports having a bearing on a consumer's creditworthiness, credit standing or credit capacity).

The Connor v. First Student case involves investigative consumer reports—background checks—made on employees of defendants First Student and First Transit by defendants HireRight Solutions and HireRight, Inc. Lead plaintiff Eileen Connor, a school bus driver, brought a lawsuit against First Student and its agents alleging violations of the ICRAA, which was dismissed after the trial court granted First Student's motion for summary judgment. The question at issue was whether the fact that ICRAA and CCRAA covered the same background/credit check rendered one of the statutes vague because it was not possible for a business to determine which one of the statutes applied. The employer claimed it couldn't tell whether CCRAA or ICRAA applied, so ICRAA (whose terms the company had violated) should be found unconstitutionally vague—and the trial court agreed.

The court of appeal and the California Supreme Court (in August 2018) disagreed, holding that when two different statutes apply, the business needs to apply both. It found that the standards of ICRAA and CCRAA, while different, are not mutually exclusive, so both applied. The amicus brief written on behalf of Consumer Action and other groups (see below) argued for the plaintiff, stating that the lower court’s finding of “void for overlap” made no sense. Instead, statutes should be harmonized wherever possible so that it’s clear both (or all) apply. The amicus brief noted the havoc that could be caused to vast areas of California law if overlapping laws were to be found automatically unconstitutional. The Supreme Court decision in August 2018 ensures that ICRAA stands, that CCRAA and ICRAA apply in the case, and that California consumers, employees and tenants in similar situations are protected by both statutes.

The amicus brief was written by Seth E. Mermin, Thomas Bennigson and Jonathan S.M. Francis for Consumer Action, California Reinvestment Coalition, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Employment Law Project, National Housing Law Project and the Public Good Law Center.


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