Census Bureau

STATUS: Resolved

A New York federal court approved the settlement of a landmark class action in which African American and Latino job applicants alleged illegal criminal background check policies and practices at the U.S. Census Bureau denied them access to more than a million temporary jobs for the 2010 decennial census.

Adam T. Klein, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs and the head of the class action practice group at O&G, said, “This historic settlement requires the Census Bureau to replace its arbitrary and racially discriminatory use of criminal records and develop a rational job-related method to determine whether an applicant has a criminal history which justifies his or her rejection from these essentially entry-level jobs.”

During six years of hard-fought litigation, the plaintiffs asserted that the Census Bureau’s flawed procedures – which relied on an often inaccurate and incomplete FBI arrest and convictions database – violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act because of their substantial adverse impact on African Americans and Latinos who were arrested at much higher rates than whites, often for the same crimes, such as minor drug possession and use.

Approved by the Hon. Frank Maas of the Southern District of New York, the $15 million settlement contains a $5 million fund to help African American and Latinos who were rejected for the 2010 Census because of criminal records or arrests with their records to ease their ability to obtain jobs in the future.  The ILR School at Cornell University has agreed to provide that expert help to African American and Latino applicants to avert future hiring issues related to their criminal records. From the settlement proceeds, the school will establish the Records Assistance Program, which will provide educational support to help these applicant class members understand the details and correct their criminal records.  Program Director Esta Bigler said, “The hope is that this settlement will help people learn how to read their records, resolve discrepancies, and enable them to present potential employers with accurate and understandable documents, increasing employment prospects.”

In addition, the settlement offers class members an option for advance notice and information related to hiring for the temporary jobs which will become available for the 2020 census.

Ossai Miazad, attorney for the plaintiffs and the head of the discrimination and retaliation practice group at O&G, said,  “This settlement commits the federal government, the nation’s largest employer, to a hiring process for one of its largest and most important operations – the decennial census – that does not unfairly and arbitrarily deny access to jobs to millions of Americans who have had some interaction with the criminal justice system.” Miazad added, “We anticipate that both private companies and government agencies will develop new ways to weigh employers’ need to ensure that applicants with criminal records will have a fair chance when they seek employment opportunities, both to their benefit, the benefit of their communities, and to the general as employment of those with past records has been shown to greatly reduce recidivism.”

(*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.)


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