Illinois Attorney General Sues Suburban Bus Company Over Alleged Discrimination
The Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against private bus company Suburban Express Monday, accusing the company of discriminating against its customers.
According to the lawsuit, Suburban Express, which mainly serves the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has shown prejudice toward its Asian customers through advertisements, including one that said, “Passengers like you. You won’t feel like you’re in China when you’re on our buses.”
The University of Illinois immediately criticized the advertisement, claiming it was racist. Days later, Madigan issued a subpoena for documents that would help figure out if the company’s practices violated the Illinois Human Rights Act or not.
Suburban Express later issued an apology for its ad.
The lawsuit described other alleged acts of discrimination by Suburban Express, including rejecting credit cards from zip codes with high Jewish populations and telling employees to avoid giving coupons to certain customers who didn’t seem to speak English well. The lawsuit also the company retaliates against customers and files lawsuits against those who complain.
Madigan said Dennis Toeppen, the owner of Suburban Express, called one customer “a pushy little Chinese international student with a fragile ego” who “should go back to your country and stay there.”
The company also has a “page of shame” where complaining customers are called degrading names, like “slimeball” and “dishonest little scumbag.”
“Suburban Express and Dennis Toeppen have engaged in illegal discrimination and harassment against college students and their families,” Madigan said in a statement. “I am asking the court to take immediate action to prevent further harm to people who have been targeted by Suburban Express and its owner, and my lawsuit seeks to shut this company down for good.”
The executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Tuyet Le, said she is pleased about the lawsuit and hopes that it puts a stop the company’s policies and practices.
“A bus company that advertises its racism has no place in serving the people of Illinois,” Le said. “And by urging his employees to mock and discriminate against Asian students, Mr. Toeppen is fueling anti-immigrant sentiments growing in this country. Companies that are openly hostile toward people of different faiths, races or nationalities deserve to be put out of business.”
Toeppen said that company takes these allegations seriously and plans to fight the lawsuit.
The lawsuit demands fines of $10,000 and $50,00 for every discriminatory act.