My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Class Action Lawsuit Update has been tracking the following lawsuit for quite some time. At first, we supported this suit, because it shows that the Census Bureau discriminated against people in the hiring process. However, when caucasian Census Bureau applicants who were rejected because of supposed criminal records tried to join the lawsuit, they were told that because they were not minorities, they were ineligible to join. If the Census Bureau’s hiring procedures discriminated against people with criminal records/arrests, then it did so against ALL people, not only minorities. Here’s today’s update from the AP:

NEW YORK — A lawsuit in New York City claims the U.S. Census Bureau discriminated in its hiring of more than a million temporary workers to conduct the 2010 census.

The lawsuit was filed by civil rights groups in federal court in Manhattan several months ago and was updated Thursday.

It says the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission warned the Census Bureau last year its hiring practices might be discriminatory. The lawsuit says the EEOC told the bureau its criminal background check policy might “run afoul” of the Civil Rights Act.

The lawsuit accuses the bureau of illegally screening out applicants with often decades-old arrest records for minor offenses or those who were arrested but never convicted.

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25 Responses to “Class Action Lawsuit Update”

  1. Census Guy Says:

    I would like to defend the U.S. Census in this instance. In a short period of time, 492 offices had to hire a total of about half a million enumerators. It appears that they relied upon test scores, and availability, as verses interviews and the use of references for such entry level positions.

    The people generally doing such entry level hiring were not HR professionals. As someone who has worked in the criminal justice system for years, the rules regarding convictions vary from state to state, and without the original police report, it is often difficult to know the nature of the original offense. (Plea bargaining often results in a conviction on a lesser offense) To hire people with criminal records would have forced the Census to engage in a lot of fact finding, which would, in turn have required hiring staff with particular CJ backgrounds to make complicated decisions, and also to have searched the appropriate data bases to make sure all relevant arrest records were accurate and had resulted in a conviction.

    While this could have been done, it would have complicated hiring, slowed it down, and increased census costs, all for temporary employees who would have only held their jobs for say, 10 to 20 weeks.

    The Census response was to give its field offices little discretion, in order to simplify its hiring practices thus saving taxpayer money. The alternative, would have been to spend a lot more money on back ground investigation and verification. While that is an appropriate investment for hiring full time federal workers, I don’t think the government should be held to the same standard for hiring a large number of temporary workers.

  2. JAG Says:

    So, the census took specific action to avoid hiring criminals and then gets sued? That’s clearly abuse of the judicial system by these lawyers!!!!! Must be behind on the Mercedes payments.

    I know this much, if the census screening of workers prevented criminals from coming to my door when my wife and children were home alone, THANK GOD they did that!

  3. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    Actually, it also prevented people who were, for example, arrested, and then never charged, from coming to your door. Or people who were arrested and the crime was reduced to a misdemeanor. SRM

  4. Tellitlikeitis Says:

    SRM you are absolutely correct. But what Census Guy fails to state is that the AMA’s are given the responsibility to also discriminate by determining, through their own judgement, applicants eligibility. AMA’s are told to review all applicants D275 and the OPM(360??) and based on the honesty of the applicant determine if they should be eligible to be part of the applicant pool. So, if an applicant puts down they were fired because they gave customers 3 discount coupons instead of 1, they would robably be made ineligible because they were fired….or a better example could be where a male was arrested for domestic vilence, but was not convicted and there were not judicial reprocusions (the female AMA) if she has personal issues with this, could probably make him ineigible.
    Im sure there are alot of good people who were lost due to these type of poor, inconsistent and mis-managed systems.

  5. Tellitlikeitis Says:

    According to the hiring statement on some Census form (LOL). It might be the OPM. Applicants are asked about any criminal activity within the last ten years. I think its unfair for someone who (what ever the crime) paid the time and has/is contributing to our society.

  6. Tellitlikeitis Says:


  7. Census Guy Says:

    Stephen Robert Morse does not generally trust the Census Management. (Okay, that’s fine, it’s his opinion)

    So Stephen, since you do not trust, say the head of the census, would you trust each and every one of the 492 census offices and its $12 an hour clerks to know what is a “serious” as verses a non-serious misdemeanor conviction. Which misdemeanors should preclude hiring, and which should not?

    If this blanket rule did not exist for better or worse, Imagine the headlines Mr. Morse would write upon the first incident. “Reckless Census hired petty criminal, who continued his life of crime”. But lets suppose that Mr. Morse did not exist. This headline would still be found on Drudge, or Fox, etc. And could you imagine Heather Giles going undercover, and using leading questions to get some minor functionary to explain which past crimes are permissible, and which are not, for an enumerator? Ooops, one mistake, and some selective editing, there goes what remains of census credibility.

    Given the political climate the Census management engaged in defensive hiring. It would have been very hard for them to do anything else.

  8. Census Guy Says:

    Hi Tellitlikeitis:

    Lets say that you have a potential enumerator who was convicted of lewd conduct 15 years ago. (a misdemeanor in some states) Debt paid, to society, or not, the census would be taking an unnecessary chance by hiring him to go door to door. Lets say that what was a result of peeping and burglary, was plea bargained down to criminal trespass. Assuming these facts to be true I still wouldn’t want this individual out on the street going door to door.

    The prohibition against using employees with criminal records is rationale and does not discriminate on the basis of any protected class. (race, sex, age, disability etc)

    The census is not engaged in rehabilitation, it is intended to conduct a national count. Each avoidable incident damages its credibility and should be avoided.

  9. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    There are stories of people who were convicted of TRESPASSING or other very minor/subjective crimes in the 1980s who were not hired, yet other people used shoddy fingerprinting procedures or name changes to get through the FBI background check. This is unacceptable.

  10. Census Guy Says:

    None of them should have gotten hired for a 300-500 hour job, and that of course includes those who provided a false name. Secondly, Stephen, how do you define a “subjective crime”. In my travels through the criminal justice system as an employee, I have never heard such a term.

    Finally, there would be two ways to “beat” fingerprinting. The first would be to roll prints that were so badly done that they could not be properly scanned. The second would be to have someone else submit fingerprints for you. Which are you claiming?

  11. anon Says:

    SRM – Should we have hired known criminals? Wouldn’t you be the one bitching if known “minor” criminals were hired on a regular basis? You can’t have your cake and eat it too, sorry.

    Here’s the bottom line: In in a down economy where the jobless rate is second only to the great depression, I think I’ll take the applicants that can do the job and have clean records. You would too. Private companies are doing the same thing right now because there continues to be a worker surplus in most areas. The Census Bureau did not have a problem finding good workers…never heard one story about not having enough people to fill positions…not one.

    As previously discussed, isolated unique cases might be valid, but the class action will probably get tossed. I agree with you, SRM, that the law firm should have at least made an attempt to include everyone in that class action.

  12. Laney Says:

    Anon – I agree. People in my training class included a retired psychiatrist, recent graduates with Masters degrees, etc. They could hire people in 2010 that probably would never have dreamed of applying in 2000 because of the job market. If you have to choose between a person with an MA in Political Science and a person who was convicted of a petty crime 5 years ago, who would you pick?

  13. JAG Says:

    Doubtful that trespassing made this list. Confirm that these people provided the requested documentation and then I’ll believe. I read stories about people not hired but they refused to provide the requested documentation.

  14. PM Says:

    Stand your ground, Census. The (con)census up here makes sense to me. While I am sorry that people who want work in earnest were passed over for income, the Bureau did indeed have a Herculean chore- hire on, train and mobilize an instant workforce. Controls could have arguably been tighter, though likely not under our time constraint. I heard of an enumerator collecting “donations” from respondents in one area.

    It’s a simple problem. We don’t have the luxury of an HR department, resumes and interviews/callbacks (save the ones WE conduct outside..). We have the 170D, and 28 questions about sticking names in order etc…

    The sensation-seeking plaintiffs in the case have, apparently, all this time to scheme up a grab at whatever it is they want. In the time I’ve been reading this thread, our office would’ve hired a thousand people with no such records.

    I’m really sorry for those who were wrongly accused/suspected/arrested in any event. I’m sorry for the stigma they have to endure, but we’re not the only ones who observe it, and the real culprit is the dynamic of their having gotten caught up in the legal meat grinder in the first place. Census sadly has no ability to pore over each applicant’s merits, and it is simply expedient to draw a line and stick to it, no matter how arbitrary it seems, than to protract public expense and our own stress over a handful of situations. Even with the Fed security clearance at TSA, one TSO gained infamy for having stashed away thousands worth of travelers’ former bounty, after medical exams and cross checks by the FBI to boot.

    So what do people expect of Census? No budget, but impeccable characters knocking at their doors- including the questionable ones if they are the candidates themselves?

    Again, sorry for the line, but it got drawn. Now, if’n ya wanna kick down another… say, 7 billion- I’m sure we can have a day for each applicant to be interviewed.

    Some bus drivers won’t even wait for you to get on board, and you aren’t in any sensitive job for them…

  15. Dave Says:

    I know someone who, 12 years ago, was arrested by mistake and released without being charged with anything, without seeing a judge. The census turned her down because the background check turned up the arrest, but not the release. Apparently they only look in court records for resolution and since she’d been released without any charges filed, the court had no record.

  16. Stephen Robert Morse Says:


    1. A Master’s Degree in Political Science doesn’t necessarily make you a good enumerator.

    2. In many places, enumerators are hired based on the zip code where they live. Not all areas have PhDs living there — such as poor areas. Thus, hiring was still difficult in some places outside of your bubble.

    @Jag – 1. You are mistaken. The lawyer filing the class action suit told me about a decades-old trespassing charge.

  17. Jack Says:

    I am with the Census here as well. In my case, my credentials were taken away on my last day of training.

    My FBI report showed a “disorderly conduct” charge…which could have meant anything. I went to the court, got the report, and sure enough, I was charged with “disorderly conduct” for an open container of alcohol with a disposition of “dismissed”. Remember, the FBI may have the charge but not always the disposition.

    I explained in my letter with the report I was at a college football game tailgating and there was open containers yet the charges were dismissed (we were never arrested, just recieved summons).

    A week later I was on the job. The Census stayed in touch with me the whole time. I wish I didn’t miss a week of work, but the public’s safety is most important and I understood that a charge of “disorderly conduct” could have been a safety issue. Just because they find something doesn’t mean that they don’t do everything to help you clear it up as soon as possible and get you back working.

  18. Jack Says:

    I should have said I never knew the actual charge was “disorderly conduct”, I thought it was just “open container of alcohol”. And, by way, I did put it on my application and my OF-306 just to be safe, but I listed it as “open container of alcohol”. The police report backed it up “disorderly conduct-open container of alcohol”…and the charge was “dismissed”. But the CIRT team told me even if it was not dismissed I still would have been cleared. They are human beings too!

  19. Laney Says:

    Obviously a degree does not mean you’ll be adept at this job, but as I said, having the choice of a college grad and a person with a record, you’re going to choose the latter.

  20. overworked Says:

    So when do we get the class action lawsuit for unpaid overtime?

  21. Laney Says:

    ‘Scuse me, the FORMER, not the latter.

  22. Actual Worker Says:

    Anyone needing evidence of the rank hypocrisy of this web site need look no further.

    Crying crocodile tears over the people turned away from Census employment because they’d been arrested/convicted of crimes.

    This web site & its right wing funders have one goal in mind, & you can see it every night on the nightly news — hypocrites throw as much mud as they can hoping some will stick & turn people off from government work & help.

    If anyone did allow a convict to be a Census worker, they’d be all in your face with the video cameras and selective editing to get people to lose their jobs and get arrested. That’s how they got rid of ACORN w/ their lies, & how they tried (& succeeded) to get that woman fired from her Agriculture job.

    This web site is the same as them, the owner just can’t figger out how to use a video camera.

  23. GS-X Says:

    Actual Worker,
    Please read the web site before you post on it.
    Applicants did not need to be convicted to be denied employment.
    Lots of people have been arrested for driving while black, no other reason.
    Even if charges were dismissed, they still could not work the 2010 Census.

  24. josiah chapman Says:

    Hey census guy;
    I would guess, maybe, you work for the Census Bureau full time, got a cushy job with a 6-figure salary? Naturally, you’re gonaa help those folks high up the food chain cover their asses, especially when it can be documented that even though 93% of anybody with any kind of an arrest record was excluded from the hiring process in the 2919 Census, somebody on the New Jersey sex offender registry was hired as a field worker. Also, on the director’s blog on the Census website, any posting that doesn’t amount to kissing Robert Groves’s ass gets automatically deleted. So much for free speech. You guessed it, I got scrwewed by the those big dicks in the hiring process, and to show how much a bunch of gutless cowards they are, they sent ma a letter saying that I was inelegeble at the end of July, 2 months after the field work had ended, instead of when I would have had to spend hundeds of dollars to get information that was expunged. I suppose the rules that apply to the general public don’t apply to the Census Bureau or local court systems, because that amounts to mail fraud.

  25. josiah chapman Says:

    That 2919 census is a typo, & should be 2010. By the way, I forgot to mention that when I got my letter, I tried to call & express my opinion, & all the phone lines had been taken down? And that I’ve tried to call the local office, & always got an answering machine? Are theses folks hiding from somebody? Hey census goy, got an excuse for that?