Attorney general sues suburban bus company for harassment, discrimination

CHICAGO — The Illinois Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Suburban Express and its owner Dennis Toeppen.

Lisa Madigan accuses the private bus service of illegal discrimination and harassment against his customers.

“The defendant has subjected students and their families to advertisements that discriminate against people on the basis of their race, national origin, and religion,” Madigan said.

The lawsuit comes more than four months after the company sent an email advertisement that said: "Passengers like you. You won't feel like you're in China when you're on our buses."

The company predominately serves students at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The lawsuit also alleges Suburban Express encourages its employees to avoid certain students who do not appear to speak English when distributing coupons.

Madigan alleges that Toeppen goes to extreme lengths to ban and publicly shame or embarrass customers who post negative online reviews. She claims Toeppen publishes web pages attacking customers and has even posted people's full credit card numbers, bank account numbers and other personal information online.

On its website, the company promotes what it calls a “Statement of Inclusion” saying “All persons are welcome to ride Suburban Express.”

The company itself did not respond to WGN’s request for comment on the lawsuit.

Madigan says  if the company wants to stay in business, it’ll have to make major changes.

“An apology is simply not going to be enough to deal with his illegal conduct,” Madigan.

Those changes include changing what she calls unfair contracts, deleting his customer’s personal information from web sites and ensuring that no person is discriminated against.