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December 4, 2017


Chicago — Attorney General Lisa Madigan today issued a subpoena to a transportation company over potential civil rights violations based on a recent advertisement directed at college students traveling during the holiday season.

Madigan issued the subpoena to Champaign, Ill.-based Suburban Express, Inc., a company that offers bus services to college students traveling between Chicago and the suburbs and downstate Champaign-Urbana. The subpoena seeks documents, records and information that will help determine whether the company's policies and practices violate the Illinois Human Rights Act. Under the Act, public accommodations cannot be denied to a person or group of people based on factors including age, race, color, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Madigan's subpoena directs Suburban Express to reply within 30 days.

"I am concerned that this advertisement may reflect that Suburban Express is discriminating against potential customers," Madigan said. "Under the law, access to transportation must not be impacted or based on a person's race or national origin. My office is investigating to determine whether Suburban Express' policies and practices violate the law."

Madigan issued the subpoena following multiple reports that Suburban Express emailed its customers a holiday advertisement that allegedly indicated that the company discriminates on the basis of race and national origin. The email to customers highlighted a list of reasons to choose Suburban Express over its competitors. One of those reasons included the statement that customers choosing Suburban Express would find: "Passengers like you. You won't feel like you're in China when you're on our buses." The ad targeted college students and promoted the routes available during the University of Illinois' upcoming winter break. A subsequent statement issued by Suburban Express criticized the university's enrollment of international students.

According to the company's website, it specializes in providing weekend transportation for college students.

The subpoena was issued by Madigan's Civil Rights Bureau, which enforces the state and federal civil rights laws to prohibit discrimination in Illinois and advocates for legislation to strengthen the laws. Madigan encourages people who want to file a complaint to do so online or by calling her Civil Rights Hotline at 1-877-581-3692.

Bureau Chief Karyn Bass Ehler and Assistant Attorney General Cynthia Flores are handling the investigation for Madigan's Civil Rights Bureau.


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