Class Action Suit Claims Employment Discrimination by Bus Company

Angela Hill, Oakland Tribune, July 20, 2010

An Oakland woman is the lead plaintiff in a federal class action lawsuit against the Ohio-based First Transit bus company, one of several service providers for East Bay Paratransit, claiming the company’s hiring policy barring applicants with felony convictions is discriminatory against blacks and Latinos and violates civil rights and fair employment laws.

The complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S District Court in San Francisco on behalf of 44-year-old Adrienne Hudson, is backed by the nation’s largest transit unions. It asserts that, because blacks and Latinos have a higher incarceration rate nationally, employment-selection policies based on criminal background checks–such as First Transit’s–have “a disparate impact on African-American and Latino job applicants and employees.”

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The suit states that Hudson, who is black, was hired at First Transit’s Oakland office in 2009. She trained for three weeks and was driving a bus for only two days when she was fired after her background check came through, revealing a 2002 felony conviction for welfare fraud, which was later reduced to a misdemeanor and eventually dismissed in 2007.

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The suit seeks monetary damages and an elimination of such hiring practices.

Officials with the Amalgamated Transit Union, the nation’s largest union of mass transit workers, say the policy violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act which states employers can’t base hiring on a past felony conviction if it would disproportionately impact minority groups.

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