Census Worker Class Action Case Introduction

Thank you for looking into the Census Discrimination Case Settlement.

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.”

Class members or members of the public who have questions or seek more information about the case should contact Adam T. Klein or Ossai Miazad or call 212-245-1000.

Factual Allegations

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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. 

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If this lawsuit affects you, contact us for a consultation.