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May 2, 2014

Aramark employee launches lawsuit

A pending lawsuit against Aramark could mean that current Aramark employees, including those that work for UChicago Dining, may claim up to $1,000 each for a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Last Monday, April 21, Darren Lomax, an ex-employee of Aramark at Soldier Field, a Chicago football stadium, filed the latest version of a complaint against Aramark for failing to comply with regulations of the FCRA, which require that background check consent forms for new employees be clear and conspicuous.

Lomax worked for Soldier Field’s concessions services, which is operated by Aramark, from late June to early September. One day in early September, Lomax showed up for work and was told he had been fired due to the results of his background check. Lomax had signed a consent form allowing Aramark to run a background check, but the form violated the “stand alone” disclosure clause.

This section of the law requires the consent form to alert the employee that a background check will be performed (which is referred to as disclosure) and allow the employee to authorize that check, without anything else listed on the same document. Aramark had added a section in attempt to release itself from responsibility, or liability, for any potential damages that could arise from the authorized background investigations, violating the stand-alone clause.

“What Aramark did was attempt to include a liability release for itself in a document that purports to be a disclosure. The problem with that is not only that it is not a stand-alone disclosure, but it is no longer clear and conspicuous because there’s all this other stuff on the document,” said Michelle Drake, one of the lawyers for the plaintiff.

The plaintiff lawyers are suing Aramark for adding this section, releasing themselves from liability, on the same page as the disclosure.  However, according to Drake, even if Aramark had attempted to put the extra liability clause on a different document, it would still violate employee FCRA rights.

Aramark is scheduled to submit a response to the complaint on May 15, and has the option to confirm or deny the allegations, or to file a motion to dismiss, claiming that the plaintiff has not sufficiently laid the foundation for the complaint.

“Aramark is committed to following the laws and regulations in our operations wherever we do business. Due to pending litigation, it would not be appropriate to comment any further,” Karen Cutler, spokesperson for Aramark, said in an e-mail.

At this point, there is only a single plaintiff against Aramark, but Lomax and his lawyers intend to apply to classify their case as a class action lawsuit.  They have not filed the motion to do so yet, but intend to at an unspecified time.  If the plaintiff wins this case and succeeds in classifying it as a class action lawsuit, Aramark will have to pay somewhere between $100 and $1,000 for each FCRA violation, meaning that each person who has signed one of the employment forms in question has a claim to the money if they sign onto the lawsuit.  This includes a number of University of Chicago Aramark employees who were hired after 2012.

Many University Aramark employees are, as of now, unaware of the lawsuit. Rosario Coronado, a Cathey Dining Commons employee, had seen an advertisement in the Maroon about the lawsuit, but never followed up on it and was unaware of the facts of the case.  According to Coronado, when she first started working for Aramark twenty years ago, background checks were not required for new employees.

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