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Philadelphia regional transportation authority sued over background checks

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), the nation’s sixth-largest public transportation system, has been accused of violating federal and state employment laws after it turned away an applicant over a 20-year-old drug conviction.

The lawsuit was filed by a plaintiff who was offered a position with SEPTA only to have the offer rescinded after the company ran a background check. The check uncovered a 1997 conviction for possession and manufacture of a controlled substance.

According to the lawsuit, SEPTA routinely misuses criminal history information to disqualify applicants from employment opportunities without considering the timeframe in which the crimes occurred and their relevancy to positions being sought – a practice which the suit claims violates Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA).

The suit comes on the heels of the introduction of pending state legislation that would allow for the sealing of nonviolent misdemeanor records. More information on that legislation can be found here.

Additionally, the suit claims that SEPTA violated the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act by not providing clear and conspicuous standalone disclosure forms indicating that the transportation authority would be obtaining consumer reports on applicants for employment purposes.

The plaintiff and his attorney are seeking class-action status for the suit. They class would seek to cover all potential SEPTA employees who were denied employment with the transportation authority based on improperly obtained and analyzed background checks.

Source: Philadelphia Business Journal, 4/27/2016

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