Passengers board a Green Line train at the Prince George's Plaza Metro station in Hyattsville in September. Metro recently released a safety report that shows injuries among riders and employees slightly increased last year. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Passengers board a Green Line train at the Prince George's Plaza Metro station in Hyattsville in September. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Former Metro employees and job applicants who were terminated or denied positions as a result of what they say is the transit agency’s racially discriminatory and overly broad background check policy will be permitted to proceed with a class certification case.

“The court’s decision paves the way for vindicating our clients’ rights and the rights of [Metro’s] employees and prospective job applicants,” said Rachel Kleinman, LDF senior counsel. “[Metro’s] criminal background check policy is unduly harsh, out of step with other jurisdictions, and limits opportunities for qualified African-American employees.”

U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer on April 18 granted class certification in Little v. Washington Metro Area Transit Authority.

The case was filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil rights and Urban Affairs and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer on behalf of nine plaintiffs against Metro and three of its contractors.

In granting class certification, the court allowed plaintiffs’ claims that Metro policy unfairly and disproportionately limits opportunities for qualified African-American employees to move forward on behalf of all affected job applicants.

The plaintiffs contend that Metro’s strict background check policy has resulted in the disqualification of numerous qualified job applications with a wide range of criminal convictions without consideration of how long ago the conviction occurred or whether the conviction is relevant to the position.

Many people with convictions, including nonviolent drug offenses, face lifetime disqualification under Metro’s current policy.

The policy violates federal and local anti-discrimination laws as well as guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the plaintiffs argue.

“Our clients are working hard to provide for themselves and their families and deserve a second chance,” said John Freedman of APKS. “[Metro] is telling them that because of past mistakes, they’re not qualified to work and to earn a living. This doesn’t just apply to those applying to work at [Metro], but others who have been working there for years without incident.”

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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