Lawsuit: SEPTA violated laws when conducting criminal background checks

SEPTA was slammed with a federal lawsuit on Wednesday that claimed the transit agency violated federal and state laws when it conducted criminal background checks on prospective employees.

Philadelphia resident and commercial bus driver Frank Long, 56, brought the lawsuit against SEPTA in Philadelphia federal court, accusing the transit agency of rejecting job applicants based on information contained in reports obtained from background check companies.

The lawsuit alleges SEPTA did not comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and that it failed to provide applicants with a so-called “clear and conspicuous” written disclosure, which is required and indicates the agency would be able to obtain a consumer report for employment purposes.

The lawsuit alleges SEPTA “routinely and systemically violates the FCRA stand-alone disclosure requirement.”

“The ‘clear and conspicuous,’ also known as ‘stand-alone’ disclosure is important to ensuring accuracy and preventing employers from distracting job applicants with unrelated information and requests,'” according to labor and employment law firm Willig, Williams & Davidson.

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The lawsuit also alleges SEPTA violated the state’s Criminal History Record Information Act and that it disqualified job applicants with unrelated felony convictions from employment for SEPTA vehicle operation positions.

Long said an October 2014 job offer as a SEPTA bus operator was revoked after he was subjected to the agency’s criminal background check process. A SEPTA recruiter, however, said Long could try applying for a maintenance custodian position at SEPTA, according to court documents.

Long had 1997 drug convictions for possession and manufacture of a controlled substance originating from a 1994 arrest, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges SEPTA “routinely and systemically violates” the Criminal History Record Information Act.

“Hiring practices barring individuals with conviction history from jobs unrelated to their previous convictions cripple job applicants who have paid their debt to society and seek to move forward with their lives as responsible citizens,” Ryan Allen Hancock of Willig, Williams & Davidson, said in a statement.

The legal team in the case includes Willig, Williams & Davidson, the New York office of Outten & Golden LLP, Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Public Interest Law Center.