NEW YORK (CN) - The U.S. Census Bureau discriminates against minorities by requiring arrest records of all potential employees when filling its 1 million temporary slots, a class action claims in federal court. Plaintiffs say the requirement violates their civil rights "because the arrest and conviction rates of African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans far exceeds those of whites nationwide."
Eugene Johnson and Evelyn Houser say they are forced to produce arrest records even when those arrests never led to convictions.
"Because this employment practice has significant adverse impact upon African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, and it is neither job-related nor a business necessity, it is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act," plaintiffs wrote.
Johnson and Houser complain that the bureau's policy unfairly excludes many who haven't done anything wrong - and that they're losing out on about $18 an hour.
"Roughly a quarter of the U.S. adult population has a criminal record, yet over 35 percent of arrests never lead to prosecution or conviction," according to the complaint.
Plaintiffs also say they are victims of shoddy bookkeeping on the part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"The FBI is missing final disposition information for roughly half of its arrest records. Thus, for millions of people, their entire criminal history consists of having been arrested and fingerprinted, but never convicted," the lawsuit states.
The class includes members of those racial minorities who applied to be census takers, clerks, census crew leaders and recruiting assistants.
Johnson and Houser want the court to abolish the bureau's hiring practice and to give them and other class members priority status for vacant census jobs.
They are represented by Samuel R. Miller of Outten & Golden.
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