On April 13, 2010, rejected U.S. Census Bureau job applicants filed an employment discrimination class action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs, represented by a coalition of public interest attorney organizations and private counsel, alleged that Census hiring procedures, which pre-screened all applicants with arrest records, violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The Census screened out applicants whose names turn up in an FBI database, indicating an arrest record regardless of whether the arrest led to a criminal conviction or to any action at all. Applicants were required to provide the Census with official documents from any criminal case that shows up on their record within 30 days of their application. The plaintiffs claimed the 30-day letter requirement was unduly burdensome - if not impossible - to comply with since the documentation requested may have been sealed, expunged, lost, or destroyed due to age.
Because African Americans and Latinos were more likely to have arrest records than whites, the plaintiffs claimed the hiring policies discriminated against people of color in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This was supported by a letter the EEOC sent the Census in 2009 criticizing the policy, warning that it may be in violation of Title VII. The plaintiffs also claimed that the compliance procedures did not distinguish among applicants with recent, serious convictions and those with records of long-ago, minor - often non-criminal - conduct, and that the requirement therefore had no job-related relevance.
The plaintiffs requested injunctive relief to alter the Census hiring practices, eliminating the 30-day letter requirement and other modifications to comply with the Uniform Guidelines for Employee Selection Procedures and related EEOC Guidance. They also requested that the defendant eradicate the effects of past and present unlawful employment practices by providing back pay and equal employment opportunities for all Class members.
The plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification on June 28, 2013. On December 16, 2013, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. On July 1, 2014, the District Court for the Southern District of New York (Magistrate Judge Frank Maas) issued an order with respect to both motions.
Judge Maas granted the defendant's motion in part and denied in part. Three named plaintiffs were dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Judge Maas granted in part and denied in part motion for class certification. He certified the class, consisting only of African-Americans, who sought temporary employment during the 2010 census and alleged harm suffered from the 30-day letter. However, since two of the three plaintiffs Judge Maas dismissed were the only Latino applicants, he did not include Latinos in the class certification originally. The class was certified for the purposes of determining liability and affording injunctive relief, but not for resolving damages.
On October 2, 2014, Judge Maas re-instated one of the Latino plaintiffs, and certified the class as representing all African American and Latino candidates who applied for temporary employment to the 2010 Decennial Census and claim they were harmed by the 30-day requirement, adjudication criteria, or both.
Subsequent to the Court's order, the parties entered into negotiations in the hopes of reaching a settlement.
On February 8, 2016, the parties filed a joint letter with the Court stating they had concluded negotiations and reached an agreement that was subject to the Department of Justice's approval. In April 2016 the parties submitted the settlement agreement to the Court and Judge Maas issued a preliminary approval on April 19, 2016. Judge Maas ordered a final approval of the settlement on September 20, 2016.
In the settlement, the Defendant agreed to pay 15 million dollars in damages and attorneys fees. In addition, the parties jointly selected independent organizations to work together as independent consultants to Census relative to the selection and hiring of temporary employees for the 2020 decennial census. Kelly Ehrenreich - 11/06/2016
Kenneth Gray - 08/07/2013
Maria Ricaurte - 03/21/2016