Alaska Supreme Court Opinions made Available byTouch N' Go Systems and Bright Solutions


Touch N' Go
, the DeskTop In-and-Out Board makes your office run smoother.

  This site is possible because of the following site sponsors. Please support them with your business.
www.gottsteinLaw.com

You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. Villaflores v. Alaska State Commission for Human Rights (11/16/2007) sp-6201

Villaflores v. Alaska State Commission for Human Rights (11/16/2007) sp-6201, 170 P3d 663

     Notice:   This opinion is subject to correction  before
     publication  in  the  Pacific  Reporter.   Readers  are
     requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk
     of  the  Appellate  Courts, 303  K  Street,  Anchorage,
     Alaska 99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878,
     e-mail corrections@appellate.courts.state.ak.us.


            THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA


CLARITO VILLAFLORES, )
) Supreme Court No. S- 12309
Appellant, )
) Superior Court No. 3AN-05-7699 CI
v. )
) O P I N I O N
ALASKA STATE COMMISSION )
FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, ) No. 6201 - November 16, 2007
)
Appellee. )
)

          Appeal  from the Superior Court of the  State
          of    Alaska,   Third   Judicial    District,
          Anchorage, Michael L. Wolverton, Judge.

          Appearances:   Clarito Villaflores,  pro  se,
          Anchorage.    William  E.  Milks,   Assistant
          Attorney   General,  and  Talis  J.  Colberg,
          Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee.

          Before:     Fabe,  Chief  Justice,  Matthews,
          Eastaugh, Bryner, and Carpeneti, Justices.

          EASTAUGH, Justice.

I.   INTRODUCTION
          Clarito Villaflores applied for a job with an Anchorage
public  utility and was not hired.  Villaflores filed a complaint
with  the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights, alleging that
he  had been discriminated against based on his age and race. The
commission, through staff, determined that Villafloress complaint
was  not  supported by substantial evidence because  the  utility
hired an applicant of the same race and age class as Villaflores,
and  because  Villaflores  was not qualified  for  the  job.   In
seeking   reconsideration,  Villaflores  did  not   dispute   the
commissions  rulings  regarding his race and  age  discrimination
claims,  but continued to argue that he was discriminated against
and that he was the most qualified applicant.  The commission did
not  reopen  his case, and the superior court denied his  appeal.
Because  it is undisputed that the utility hired an applicant  of
the same race and age class as Villaflores, he failed to make out
a prima facie case of discrimination.  We therefore affirm.
II.  FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
          Clarito  Villaflores  applied for  a  job  as  a  human
resources  supervisor with Anchorage Water &  Wastewater  Utility
(AWWU)  in  April  2004.   According to AWWUs  job  posting,  the
minimum  qualifications  included a  bachelors  degree  in  human
resources  or a related field and three years of human  resources
experience,  including  one  year  of  experience  in  conducting
investigations  or  settling  grievances.1  Villaflores  was  not
interviewed,  and another applicant was hired.  Villaflores  then
filed  a  complaint  with the Alaska State Commission  for  Human
Rights  alleging that he was discriminated against based  on  his
race (Asian) and his age (forty-five).
          AWWU responded that it had hired an applicant who, like
Villaflores, was Asian and over forty years old; that it did  not
interview    Villaflores   because   he   lacked   the    minimum
qualifications  for the job; and that the analyst who  determined
that Villaflores was not qualified did not know Villafloress  age
and  race.  AWWU provided affirmative action data on all  of  the
candidates  who  applied, as well as copies of  the  applications
filed by Villaflores and the two women who received job offers.
          The  commissions  staff  determined  that  Villafloress
complaint  was not supported by substantial evidence because  the
hired   applicant  was  of  the  same  race  and  age  class   as
Villaflores.   Commission staff also seemed to  agree  with  AWWU
that  Villaflores  did not meet the minimum qualifications.   The
commission closed Villafloress case.
          Villaflores  asked  the commission to  reconsider  that
decision  and to reopen his case because, although he  no  longer
disputed  the issues of race and age discrimination, he  disputed
the  commissions  ruling that he was unqualified.2   He  did  not
claim  that  he was discriminated against based on his membership
in   a  protected  group.   The  commissions  executive  director
declined to reopen his case.
          Villaflores  appealed to the superior court,  where  he
argued  that although he was in the same protected class  as  the
hired  applicant, he could still pursue [his] case that [he  was]
intentionally  discriminated  against  by  AWWU  based  on  [his]
qualifications  and/or credentials.  The superior court  affirmed
the  commissions decision to close Villafloress case,  concluding
that AWWUs minimum requirements and its decision that Villaflores
was not the most qualified applicant were reasonable.
          Villaflores appeals pro se.
III. DISCUSSION
     A.   Standard of Review
          We  independently  review the merits of  administrative
decisions.3   We review an agencys factual findings to  determine
whether  they are supported by substantial evidence.4  We  review
          questions of law not involving agency expertise under the
substitution of judgment test.5
     B.   The  Superior Court Did Not Err when It Concluded  that
          Villafloress Complaint Was Not Supported by Substantial
          Evidence.

          Villaflores argues that although there are no issues of
race  or age discrimination, he is still entitled to legal relief
under  Millbrook  v. IBP, Inc.,6 a case from the Seventh  Circuit
Court  of  Appeals.   The  commission responds  that  Villaflores
failed  to state a prima facie case of discrimination,  that  his
allegations  of discrimination were not supported by  substantial
evidence, and that Millbrook does not support his position.
          Alaska   Statute  18.80.220(a)(1)  in  pertinent   part
prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of a persons
race  or  age.  To prove employment discrimination in a  case  in
which there is no direct evidence of discriminatory intent,  such
as  this one, the complaining party must first establish a  prima
facie  case  of discrimination.7  If the employer has filled  the
position,  the  complainant must prove that (1)  the  complainant
belongs to a protected class; (2) the complainant applied for and
was  qualified  for  a  job for which the  employer  was  seeking
applications;  (3)  the  complainant  was  rejected  despite  the
complainants  qualifications;8 and  (4)  the  employer  hired  an
individual [who was] not within the same protected class  as  the
complainant.9
          Villafloress argument seems to assume that he  did  not
need to prove that the utility discriminated against him based on
his  membership in a protected class.  The first element  of  the
prima  facie case is evidence that the complainant belongs  to  a
protected class.10  Villaflores is Asian and was over the age  of
forty when he applied for the position, so he has established the
first  element.  But the fourth element of his prima  facie  case
required  him  to  show that the person actually  hired  did  not
belong   to  the  same  protected  class  (or  classes)  as   the
complainant.11  As the commission argues, the applicant  who  was
hired  was also Asian and over the age of forty, so she  belonged
to   the   same   protected  classes  as  Villaflores.    Because
Villaflores  has  failed  to make out a  prima  facie  case,  the
commission did not err when it found that Villafloress  complaint
was not supported by substantial evidence, and the superior court
did not err when it affirmed this determination.
          Villaflores argues that he is entitled to prevail under
the  rule  announced  in Millbrook.12  He  seems  to  argue  that
Millbrook  requires  an  employer  to  hire  the  most  qualified
applicant.  We disagree with this reading of the case.  The court
in  Millbrook held that to prevail on a discrimination claim, the
employee  must  establish a prima facie case  of  discrimination.
[A]  jury  verdict  for the employee [on a discrimination  claim]
cannot  stand if the jury is simply disagreeing with the  company
as to who is best qualified.13  Millbrook extends a great deal of
deference  to an employers decisions unless there is evidence  of
discrimination   beyond  the  relative  qualifications   of   the
candidates.14  In any event, Millbrook requires a complainant  to
          make out a prima facie discrimination case before qualifications
can even be discussed,15 and Villaflores failed to do so.
IV.  CONCLUSION
          Because Villaflores did not make out a prima facie case
of discrimination, we AFFIRM.
_______________________________
     1      The   utility  permitted  applicants  without   these
qualifications to substitute pertinent work experience or  higher
education on a year-for-year basis.

     2     His  reconsideration motion stated:  While  I  do  not
dispute  on the issues of race and age discrimination, the  issue
at bar is on qualifications.

     3     Raad  v. Alaska State Commn for Human Rights, 86  P.3d
899,  903 (Alaska 2004) (stating standard of review in employment
discrimination  case in which Lebanese Muslim woman  alleged  she
was not hired because of national origin, religion, and gender).

     4    Id.

     5    Id. at 903-04.

     6     Millbrook  v. IBP, Inc., 280 F.3d 1169,  1184-85  (7th
Cir.  2002)  (entering judgment as a matter of law against  black
applicant who was not discriminated against because company hired
white applicant with better credentials).

     7    Raad, 86 P.3d at 904.

     8     Id.  (citing  Alaska State Commn for Human  Rights  v.
Yellow  Cab, 611 P.2d 487, 490 (Alaska 1980) (holding  that  taxi
company illegally discriminated against women by refusing to hire
them)).

     9    Id. at 904-05 (citing Yellow Cab, 611 P.2d at 492).

     10    Id. at 904.

     11    Id. at 904-05.

     12     Millbrook, 280 F.3d at 1177.  Villaflores argues that
we  must  follow  Millbrook under the doctrine of stare  decisis.
Millbrook  is  not  binding precedent in  this  case  because  it
involves  an interpretation of a federal law, Title  VII  of  the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.  2000e et seq., not the state
law, AS 18.80.220(a)(1), that we construe here.

     13    Millbrook, 280 F.3d at 1178.

     14    Id. (citations omitted).

     15     In  Millbrook, the plaintiff made out a  prima  facie
case,  and  when the employer claimed it hired the most qualified
applicant,  he  argued that his qualifications were  superior  to
those of the person actually hired.  Id. at 1174-75.

This site is possible because of the following site sponsors. Please support them with your business.
www.gottsteinLaw.com
Case Law
Statutes, Regs & Rules
Constitutions
Miscellaneous


IT Advice, Support, Data Recovery & Computer Forensics.
(907) 338-8188

Please help us support these and other worthy organizations:
Law Project for Psychiatraic Rights
Soteria-alaska
Choices
AWAIC