Census Worker Class Action Case Introduction
In 2009 and 2010, the United States Census Bureau (“Census”) has engaged in the temporary hiring of over one million temporary workers to conduct the 2010 census in a manner which discriminated against over one hundred thousand African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. Plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit on April 13, 2010 to challenge this discriminatory practice, and amended their Complaint on August 5, 2010.
All applicants for the 2010 Census with an arrest record for any offense at any point in their lives – no matter how trivial or disconnected from the requirements of the job – faced an arbitrary barrier to employment. Census required that within 30 days these particular applicants must produce the “official” court records of the disposition of their arrests to remain eligible for employment. Because of the difficulty, and often impossibility, of obtaining such proof, many people who had never been prosecuted or convicted of a crime were deterred or excluded outright from working for Census. Census’ screening procedure also resulted in the exclusion of many people with old and minor convictions for non-criminal offenses, misdemeanors, and other crimes that did not involve violence or dishonesty, which were irrelevant according to Census’ own policy for work in the field or at a desk job.
Because the arrest and conviction rates of African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans far exceed those of whites nationwide, Census’ use of an arbitrary pre-employment screen had the result of discriminating on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, and national origin. By importing the discriminatory bias of the criminal justice system into its hiring practice, Census thereby violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Since filing suit in April of 2010, we have learned some devastating facts:
• Near the outset of this hiring program, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) informed Census officials that the method of screening out applicants could well have a racially discriminatory impact in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, but Census failed to revise its screening procedures to rectify the problem.
• The “official court documentation” requirement has caused 93% of applicants with a record of almost any arrest – roughly 700,000 people – to be excluded from consideration for Census jobs. This single device operates virtually as a “no arrest or conviction history allowed” policy.
• Census’ criminal background screening process is not new. Plaintiffs have learned that when Census hired temporary workers for the 2000 decennial census, it used the same process, with the same massive exclusionary effect. Following the 2000 census, and again this year, Census has failed to analyze the reasons for this exclusion and the racial and ethnic impact of its practices.
These revelations show that Census’ policy is not just a function of bureaucratic ineptitude, but that it is designed to discriminate. Plaintiffs’ amended complaint includes this new information, as well as the addition of 5 new named plaintiffs from across the country.
The Plaintiffs in this case — all Census applicants — are deeply committed to Census’ goal of reaching communities at risk of being undercounted, particularly low-income people of color and immigrants. They seek changes to Census' hiring process which will not only reduce its discriminatory practices, but will promote the public interest by expanding Census' hiring base in historically under-counted communities, thereby achieving the Constitutional goal of counting all who live in the United States.
On April 22, 2016, the Court granted preliminary approval of the proposed settlement.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is this lawsuit about?
This lawsuit alleges that the Census Bureau’s process of screening applicants with criminal histories is arbitrary and unfair, that it deters applicants with criminal histories from applying for and obtaining Census jobs, and that the process discriminates against African American, Latino, and Native American applicants because they are disproportionately more likely to have criminal histories than White applicants.
- What is a Class Action?
In a class action, one or more people sue on behalf of a group of people, whom they allege have been subjected to the same policy that violates the law.
- Who started the lawsuit?
The individuals who started the lawsuit are called the Plaintiffs. Their names are Evelyn Houser & Eugene Johnson . Both of the Plaintiffs applied for positions with the Census Bureau.
- How do I know whether I will be included in the case?
If you applied for a temporary, non-managerial position with the Census Bureau for the 2010 Census and were deterred from maintaining your application or rejected because of the Bureau’s process of screening applicants for criminal history, you may be a member of the alleged Class, if the Judge “certifies” it and decides that it should proceed as a class action. This short Questionnaire will help us determine your eligibility.
If the court decides not to certify the case as a class action, you may be required to pursue your own case to protect your rights.
- What do I have to do to be a part of this lawsuit?
You do not need to do anything at this time to protect your right to be part of this lawsuit. If you are eligible to be part of the class that the Judge certifies, you will automatically become part of the lawsuit. In order for us to assess your claims and to assist with our investigation of the facts, we ask that you please complete this short Questionnaire.