UPDATE: Judge approves temporary restraining order for Suburban Express

UPDATE: Judge approves temporary restraining order for Suburban Express

CHAMPAIGN — Suburban Express has reached an agreement with the Illinois Attorney General's office on a temporary restraining order for the next 28 days while it continues to negotiate.

The Champaign-based bus company was sued by Attorney General Lisa Madigan this week for alleged discrimination and harassment against its customers.

"Today, Suburban Express entered into an 'Agreed Order' with IL Attorney General," owner Dennis Toeppen wrote on the company's Facebook page. "That means that we've negotiated terms with the AG that we'll adhere to for 28 days. During that time, we'll advance negotiations with the AG with the hopes of reaching a resolution."

In her lawsuit, Madigan requested a temporary restraining order to force Suburban Express to take down any private information it had posted and remove language from its contract that prohibits negative reviews.

The two sides met 10 a.m. Friday in Chicago before Judge Andrea Wood to discuss the temporary restraining order.

"Suburban Express’ attorney was not in court, and we advised the judge we had an agreed order drafted," said Annie Thompson, spokeswoman for the Illinois Attorney General's office. "The judge took it under advisement."

Later Friday, Wood approved the agreed TRO.

All of the requirements Madigan originally asked for appear to remain, although the deadline for some has been pushed back from 72 hours to 21 days.

These include:

— Deleting any personally identifying information that's been made public within 24 hours.

— Filing motions in court within 21 days to remove any personally identifying information from court documents. 

— Notifying within 21 days any customers whose personally identifying information has been made public.

— Immediately stopping any retaliation against customers for negative reviews.

— Removing language in its contract within 24 hours that prohibits negative reviews.

On Monday, Madigan said she hopes the lawsuit and TRO force Toeppen and Suburban Express to either comply with the law or go out of business.

Her lawsuit alleges that Suburban Express has discriminated against customers from China or other Asian countries through its advertisements, including one emailed in December that said: "Passengers like you. You won't feel like you're in China when you're on our buses."

This led to a swift backlash, various apologies and a subpoena from Madigan's office to determine whether Suburban Express had violated the Illinois Human Rights Act.

With her lawsuit, Madigan argues that Suburban Express has violated that act, along with other state and federal laws protection customers and their civil rights.

Madigan's lawsuit details various alleged acts of discrimination by Suburban Express and Toeppen, including denying credit cards from ZIP codes with high Jewish populations, instructing employees to avoid handing out coupons to certain students who appeared not to speak English well, and recording a YouTube video in a UI dorm while complaining about the lack of English speakers and mocking Asian accents, saying "No Engrish."

The lawsuit also takes aim at the company for allegedly attacking customers on Yelp, on its "Page of Shame," and through "scores of lawsuits" filed in an inconvenient location (Ford County) while failing to redact customers' private information.

On Monday, Toeppen said he is reviewing the lawsuit.

"We take this unfounded assault on our reputation seriously and we intend to defend this lawsuit vigorously," he said Monday.

Sections (3):News, Local, Business