Starbucks need not "out" job applicants with pot busts

Apr 28, 2011

Starbucks Corporation isn't required to disclose the names of potential plaintiffs in a lawsuit accusing it of illegally requiring job applicants to reveal past marijuana convictions.

That's what a California appeals court ruled this week. The Seattle-based coffee giant was accused in a 2005 lawsuit of violating a mid-1970s California law that bars employers from asking job seekers about minor marijuana convictions that are more than two years old.

After the three original plaintiffs were barred from leading the case because they had no marijuana convictions, a lower court judge ordered Starbucks to randomly sort through job applicants until it found 25 qualified to lead the lawsuit.

Reuters reports those one-time applicants were then to be offered a chance to "opt out" of the case, and thus not have their names revealed. Starbucks objected to having to do this and on Monday a three-judge appeals court panel agreed with the company.

California's Fourth District Court of Appeals said the plaintiff's lawyers had not shown that any job seekers were hurt by Starbuck's application form, and that ordering the company to "do this work for them" would invade applicants' privacy.

“One can only imagine the potential consternation in a household where a Starbucks applicant with a marijuana-tinged past is ‘outed’ to a spouse, child, or roommate who opens the letter and reads about a lawsuit involving job applicants with prior marijuana convictions,” the three-judge panel said.

A Starbucks spokeswoman said the company is pleased with the ruling which it views as "paving the way for dismissal of the lawsuit".

Mike Arias, the lawyer who filed the suit in Santa Ana, CA, said yesterday he may take the case to the California Supreme Court.