Black Nurse Files Discrimination Complaint Against Lowell Transit Authority

Racial Justice

Black Bus Rider Files Discrimination Complaint Against Lowell Transit Authority Following Racial Harassment

Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) filed a complaint under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on behalf of Lucia Appia, a Black immigrant woman, who has repeatedly endured racial harassment and discrimination by employees of the Lowell Regional Transit Authority (“LRTA”) while traveling on the bus for work. The LRTA, as a recipient of federal financial assistance, is subject to Title VI.

Most recently, on January 22, 2021, as Ms. Appia was leaving the LRTA Bus Station in Lowell, a white female LRTA employee, said, “Shut up you low class Black person.” Ms. Appia is originally from the Ivory Coast, and holds a master’s degree. She serves the most vulnerable, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a home-based Certified Nurse Assistant. In that moment, however, the only facet of her identity that white LRTA employee saw was her Blackness, and made racist assumptions based on her skin color. Ms. Appia immediately reported the incident to LRTA management, but LRTA failed to adequately respond and investigate, referring to the incident as a mere “joke.”

Unfortunately, this was not the first time that an LRTA employee treated Ms. Appia differently due to her race. Previously, Ms. Appia reported a white male bus driver after he repeatedly refused to open the rear door of the bus for her, claiming the door was broken, but then opening the door for white patrons. Ms. Appia has also endured a series of deeply hurtful racialized statements, including insulting comments about her accent and inquiries about whether her housing is subsidized by the government. Ms. Appia has never witnessed white patrons subjected to this public racialized scrutiny. Further, despite her complaints, LRTA has failed to take adequate action to end this behavior by its employees.

“Being Black while riding the bus should not subject us to discrimination and insults,” said Lucia Appia. “I hope that my complaint causes the LRTA to take a close look at the communities they serve and the service they provide.”

“No employer can shirk its responsibility to investigate and remedy discriminatory behavior by its employees,” said Sophia Hall, Supervising Attorney at LCR,who represents Ms. Appia. “The public needs to feel confident that LRTA’s complaint protocols are more than mere mirages. Over 65 years ago, Rosa Parks demanded an end to discriminatory treatment on the busses of Montgomery, Alabama. Today, my client is doing the same in Lowell, Massachusetts.”

The complaint is available here: