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Bus company to pay $100K to settle state discrimination lawsuit

Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office has reached an agreement to settle a state civil rights lawsuit against a bus company accused of discriminating against Asian students at the University of Illinois.

Suburban Express will pay $100,000 to resolve the suit filed last year by former Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan against the company and its owner, David Toeppen, according to a statement from Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office.

The consent decree, filed April 9, also prohibits the company from engaging in discriminatory business practices or denying customers service based on discriminatory reasons or their online commentary about the company.

Suburban Express shuttles students between Champaign-Urbana and the Chicago area.

“For too long, students traveling from university campuses to their homes have done so under the fear of being subjected to discrimination and harassment by Suburban Express and its owner,” Raoul said in the statement. “This consent decree brings an end to Mr. Toeppen’s reprehensible business practices and ensures that students receive fair and equal access to Suburban Express’s services.”

Madigan originally filed the suit after Suburban Express faced backlash over a promotional email that read, in part, “You won’t feel like you’re in China when you’re on our buses.”

Suburban Express wrote in a Facebook post that the consent decree “makes it clear that there is no finding of fact, and that none of the allegations made by Lisa Madigan are valid or truthful.”

The post refers to Raoul’s statement about the decree as “false and defamatory in the extreme, in that it claims his office proved the various false and unproven allegations.”

“Suburban Express is considering legal action against Kwame Raoul and Assistant Attorney General Thomas Verticchio at this time,” the post states.

Raoul’s office will monitor the company’s compliance with the terms of the consent decree for three years, and Toeppen and his employees will be required to attend annual training on anti-discrimination laws, the attorney general’s office said.

The consent decree also allows customers to seek refunds by filing online claims between April 30 and Oct. 9.