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Starbucks Corp. v. Superior Court

Court of Appeals of California
86 Cal. Rptr. 3d 482 (Cal. Ct. App. 2008)


Facts

Starbucks Corporation (Starbucks) (defendant) required interested applicants for employment to fill out a nationwide application form. The front page of the form required applicants to disclose any convictions within the last seven years. On the reverse side, the form contained a 346-word paragraph in smaller font with several state-specific disclaimers. Toward the end of the paragraph, the form included a disclaimer applicable only to California applicants. The disclaimer stated that California applicants were not required to disclose convictions for marijuana possession that were more than two years old. In 2005, Eric Lords and Hon Yeung (plaintiffs) brought a class-action lawsuit against Starbucks on behalf of approximately 135,000 California applicants who had applied to Starbucks and filled out the nationwide form. Although none of the applicants had marijuana-related convictions to disclose, the plaintiffs claimed that the form violated the California Labor Code, which prohibited employers from inquiring about marijuana-related convictions that were more than two years old. The plaintiffs sought statutory damages of $200 per applicant. At a deposition, both Lords and Yeung admitted that they had read the entire form prior to applying, including the California disclaimer, and understood that they were not required to disclose any convictions for marijuana possession that were more than two years old. Starbucks moved for summary judgment. The trial court denied Starbucks’ motion, finding that the form violated the California Labor Code and that the plaintiffs had standing to collect statutory damages. The trial court also found a material issue of fact as to whether the California disclaimer would alert a reasonable job applicant that the disclosure of marijuana-related convictions that were more than two years old was not required in California. Starbucks filed a petition for a writ of mandate. The Court of Appeals of California issued an order to show cause why the motion for summary judgment should not be granted.

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Holding and Reasoning (Ikola, J.)

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