AG Madigan files lawsuit against bus company alleging discrimination, customer harassment

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit on Monday against Suburban Express Company, a bus company which runs shuttles between several colleges to the Chicago area, alleging discrimination and customer harassment.

In December, the Champaign area-based sent an email advertisement that some thought disparaged Asians. The ad said that riders "won't feel like you're in China when you're on our buses."

The lawsuit alleges that Suburban Express and its owner discriminates and harasses customers, violating the state's civil rights and consumer protection laws. Madigan said that the company retaliates against customers who post negative comments online, even posting their personal information online including addresses and bank account information.

The company's owner, Dennis Toeppen, is also named in the civil lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Chicago.

Toeppen has filed more than 100 lawsuits against customers, then posting the lawsuits online which also has personal information. He has also banned more than 100 customers for seemingly petty reasons, such as being "too whiney." He also has an online Page of Shame, where Toeppen will post "hate-filled" messages about customers, including calling them "slimeballs."

Many of the company's customers are students, specifically from the University of Illinois, which has nearly 6,000 students from China. The university called the December email "bigoted"

Madigan said that her office has received about 50 complaints from customers.

She said an apology by the company and owner is not enough, adding that their practices are illegal.

"This is a serious history, years long, of continued repeated violation of our civil rights laws and consumer protection laws," Madigan said. "An apology is simply not going to be enough to deal with his illegal conduct ... If he doesn't do that, he should not be operating."

A representative from Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Chicago, joined Madigan for her announcement, adding that the owner is fueling anti-immigration sentiments and deserves to be put out of business.
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