By Lester Rosen, ESR President & Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

A class action lawsuit backed by nation’s largest union of mass transit workers – the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) – asserts that a major provider of bus services violated federal race discrimination laws in its operations because workers with criminal records were barred from employment no matter how old the conviction.

According to a story on ATU News, a class action lawsuit was filed against First Transit, Inc., one of the nation’s largest bus companies, for illegal discrimination against African-American and Latino employees and job applicants. The lead plaintiff is an African-American woman who was fired in 2009 by First Transit in Oakland, CA, after just two days on the job due to a seven-year-old felony welfare fraud conviction, which had been expunged from her record by the state of California, according to ATU News.

At issue is a company-wide “No Hire Policy” implemented by First Transit that refuses employment to any job applicant who has a past felony conviction or who has been sentenced to any term of incarceration, no matter how brief. The “no-hire” policy is in force regardless of:

  • The nature and gravity of the offense,
  • The amount of time passed since the conviction, or
  • Whether the offense has any relationship to the job in question.

According to the plaintiff’s complaint, the policy has a “disparate impact” on African-American and Latino job seekers, because they are arrested and convicted at far greater rates than their white counterparts, ATU News reports.

In addition, ATU News reports that policy guidelines of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) cited in the class action complaint support the claim of discriminatory practices at First Transit. According to the EEOC:

[A]n employer’s policy or practice of excluding individuals from employment on the basis of their conviction records has an adverse impact on [African Americans and Latinos]… such a policy or practice is unlawful under Title VII [of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964] in the absence of a justifying business necessity.”

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) has long cautioned employers that any automatic disqualification rule – like a company-wide “No Hire Policy” – can be discriminatory, and that employers must first consider if there is a business justification to deny employment, taking into account the nature and gravity of the crime, the nature of the job, and the age of the offense. 

For more information on how best to avoid discrimination against employees and job applicants while conducting employment screening, visit



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