Q: A former employer in the financial services industry had a class action lawsuit filed against them for some questionable "tweaks" to our compensation plan. I was not involved in the filing of the lawsuit. I simply received a notice in the mail explaining what was happening and that I was eligible to participate in the lawsuit against the company. The litigation was successful and I received approximately $10,000.
When completing an application for a new prospective employer and I am asked "Have you ever filed a lawsuit against a former employer?" do I have to respond "yes," or can my response be "no" since I did not initiate the litigation? I am just trying to prevent any surprises during the background check.
Any help or guidance regarding this question would be very much appreciated. Calvin, Carmichael, CA
A: I have not seen an employment application in California that actually asks the question "Have you ever filed a lawsuit against a former employer?"
As a general rule, this type of question will not violate federal or state anti-discrimination law, but if an employer disqualifies any applicants because of their answers to those questions, the employer may find himself facing a lawsuit. Employers should not make any pre-employment inquiry that will provide information from a job applicant that does not have any relationship to successful job performance.
Since you did not actually file the lawsuit you could honestly answer this question with "No." The most common searches run in a California Background Check are Social Security Number Scan, County Criminal Record Checks, Employment Verifications and Education Verifications. The public record listing the class action award against your previous employer should not come up in your personal background check history.