A New York federal court has approved the addition of Latino applicants to a previously certified class action lawsuit alleging the U.S. Census Bureau unlawfully screened out hundreds of thousands of minorities from temporary jobs for the 2010 census, Outten & Golden LLP and co-counsel said today.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank Maas ruled on Oct. 2 that an estimated 200,000 Latino applicants may be added to the already certified class of approximately 250,000 African American applicants. The unprecedented lawsuit, pursued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleges that the Census Bureau used an unlawful criminal background check policy to deny employment to job applicants.
Filed in April 2010, the lawsuit alleges that in hiring nearly a million temporary workers, most of whom went door to door seeking information from residents, the Census Bureau erected unreasonable, largely insurmountable, hurdles for applicants with arrest records – regardless of whether the arrests were decades old, for minor charges, or led to criminal convictions.
The legal team for the plaintiffs, which were appointed as class counsel, includes lawyers from Outten and Golden, and the Center for Constitutional Rights; Community Legal Services of Philadelphia; Community Service Society, of New York; Indian Law Resource Center, of Helena, Mont.; LatinoJustice PRLDEF of New York; Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, of Washington, D.C.; and Public Citizen Litigation Group, of Washington, D.C.
Government records show that more than 70 million people in the U.S. have been arrested, but at least 35 percent of all arrests nationwide never lead to prosecutions or convictions. National statistics also confirm that African-Americans and Latinos suffer a disproportionately high percentage of arrests as compared to Whites.
Most of the job applicants covered by the class action received a form letter from the government, advising them to provide official court records of all arrests within 30 days. The lawsuit alleges that the “30-day” letter’s ambiguity and failure to provide basic information such as the arrests for which documentation was requested created confusion and set up applicants for non-compliance and rejection.
In July 2009, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission advised the Census Bureau that its criminal background screening process could violate federal law.
Adam Klein, of Outten & Golden LLP, said, “The court’s ruling ensure that all of the minorities who were affected by the Census Bureau’s background check policy will be represented in the case. We look forward to the trial of this case. The evidence will show the Census Bureau excluded many people who, on a fair review of their records, met federal standards for having no relevant criminal history.”
More information about the case is available at www.censusdiscriminationlawsuit.com.
The case is “Evelyn Houser, et al., v. Penny Pritzker, Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce,” No. 1:10-cv-03105-FM, in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.
Media Contact: Erin Powers, Powers MediaWorks LLC, for Outten & Golden LLP, 281.703.6000, @email.