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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 (02/08/2008) sp-6228

Villaflores v. Alaska State Commission for Human Rights (02/08/2008) sp-6228, 175 P3d 1275

     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- 12499
Appellant, )
) Superior Court No. 3AN-05-12400 CI
v. )
) O P I N I O N
ALASKA STATE COMMISSION )
FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, ) No. 6228 - February 8, 2008
)
Appellee. )
)
          Appeal  from the Superior Court of the  State
          of    Alaska,   Third   Judicial    District,
          Anchorage, Philip R. Volland, 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, and Carpeneti, Justices.   [Bryner,
          Justice, not participating.]

          EASTAUGH, Justice.

I.   INTRODUCTION
          After  Clarito  Villaflores  applied  for  a  job  with
ConocoPhillips and was not hired, he filed a complaint  with  the
Alaska State Commission for Human Rights, alleging discrimination
based on age and race.  The commission, through staff, determined
that  Villafloress  complaint was not  supported  by  substantial
evidence  because Villaflores was not qualified for the job,  and
because ConocoPhillips had not known Villafloress race and  hired
an  applicant of the same age class as Villaflores.   In  seeking
reconsideration,  Villaflores disputed  the  commissions  rulings
regarding his race and age discrimination claims.  The commission
did  not  reopen  his  case, and the superior  court  denied  his
appeal.  Because Villafloress application failed to show  he  was
qualified for the job he failed to make out a prima facie case of
discrimination.  We therefore affirm.
II.  FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
          Clarito   Villaflores   applied   for   a   job    with
ConocoPhillips  Alaska,  Inc. as a North  Slope  human  resources
representative.     The   job   description   listed    preferred
qualifications,  including five to ten years of  human  resources
experience,  labor  relations  experience,  and  a  bachelors  or
masters  degree in human resources or a related field.   The  job
application form did not ask applicants to report their age,  but
allowed   applicants   to   voluntarily   report   their    race.
Villafloress completed application did not state his race or  age
as  such, but stated among other things that he had graduated  in
1979 and 1983 from Silliman University, Philippines, and that  he
was proficient in Filipino.  Villaflores was not interviewed, and
another  applicant was hired.  Villaflores then filed a complaint
with  the  Alaska  State  Commission for Human  Rights,  alleging
discrimination based on his race (Asian) and age (forty-five).
          ConocoPhillips responded that it did not  interview  or
hire Villaflores because he lacked the minimum qualifications for
the  job; that it hired the most qualified applicant for the job;
and  that  the  human  resources  director  who  determined  that
Villaflores  was not qualified did not know Villafloress  age  or
race.   ConocoPhillips posted the human resources job  twice  and
received  a  total  of  324 applications.  It  interviewed  eight
applicants.  The resume of the hired applicant revealed  that  he
did  not have a human resources degree but had ten years of human
resources  and labor relations experience in the oil industry  on
the North Slope.
          The  commissions  staff  determined  that  Villafloress
complaint  was  not  supported  by substantial  evidence  because
Villafloress  application  did  not  indicate  any   relevant  HR
generalist or labor relations experience and the evidence did not
support [Villafloress] allegation that  [ConocoPhillips] did  not
interview  him, nor hire him . . . because of his  age  or  race.
Villafloress  application stated that he was  a  Labor/Management
Consultant  but  did  not  state his  duties  or  hours  in  that
position.  The commission closed Villafloress case.
          Villaflores  asked  the commission  to  reconsider  its
decision  and  reopen  his case because  ConocoPhillips  did  not
disprove  his  allegations  of race and  age  discrimination  and
implied  that  the  commission  erred  in  ruling  that  he   was
unqualified.   The  commissions executive  director  declined  to
reopen his case.
          Villaflores  appealed to the superior court,  where  he
argued  that   ConocoPhillips discriminated against  him  on  the
basis  of  age  and  race.   The  superior  court  affirmed   the
commissions decision to close Villafloress case, concluding  that
Villaflores   failed  to  make  out  a  prima   facie   case   of
discrimination.
          Villaflores appeals pro se.
III. DISCUSSION
     A.   Standard of Review
          We  independently  review the merits of  administrative
decisions.1   We review an agencys factual findings to  determine
whether  they are supported by substantial evidence.2  We  review
questions  of  law  not  involving agency  expertise   under  the
substitution of judgment test.3
     B.    The Superior Court Did Not Err when It Concluded  that
Villaflores          Failed To Establish a Prima  Facie  Case  of
Discrimination.

          Villaflores  argues that he established a  prima  facie
case  of  discrimination; that he is the most qualified applicant
for the posted job; and that he is entitled to legal relief under
Millbrook v. IBP, Inc.,4 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  such
as  this,  in which there is no direct evidence of discriminatory
intent, the complaining party must first establish a prima  facie
case  of  discrimination.5   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;6 and  (4)  the  employer  hired  an
individual [who was] not within the same protected class  as  the
complainant.7
          Villaflores is Asian and was over the age of forty when
he  applied for the position, so he established the first element
of  his prima facie case.8  But Villaflores cannot establish  the
second  element, which requires a showing that he  was  qualified
for  the  job.   The second element is not met  because  his  job
application does not show that he possessed the requisite five to
ten  years of human resources experience.  The employment section
of  Villafloress application lists his work as a Labor/Management
Consultant  in  the Philippines.  But it does  not  describe  the
consulting  duties  or  the time spent on  the  job.   The  hired
applicant  had  ten years of human resources and labor  relations
experience  in  the  oil industry on the  North  Slope.   Because
Villaflores  did not make out a prima facie case, the  commission
did  not  err in concluding that Villafloress complaint  was  not
supported by substantial evidence, and the superior court did not
err in affirming this determination.
          Villaflores also argues that he is entitled to  prevail
under  the rule announced in Millbrook.9  He seems to argue  that
Millbrook  requires  an  employer  to  hire  the  most  qualified
applicant.  We disagree with any such 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.10
Millbrook  extends  a  great deal of deference  to  an  employers
decisions  unless there is evidence of discrimination beyond  the
relative  qualifications  of  the candidates.11   In  any  event,
Millbrook  requires  a  complainant to make  out  a  prima  facie
discrimination case before qualifications can even be discussed,12
and Villaflores failed to do so.
IV.  CONCLUSION
          Because Villaflores did not make out a prima facie case
of discrimination, we AFFIRM.
_______________________________
     1    Villaflores v. Alaska State Commn for Human Rights, 170
P.3d  663, 665  (Alaska 2007) (citing Raad v. Alaska State  Commn
for Human Rights, 86 P.3d 899, 903 (Alaska 2004)).

     2    Id. at 665.

     3    Id.

     4     Millbrook  v. IBP, Inc., 280 F.3d 1169,  1184-85  (7th
Cir. 2002) (holding district court erred by not granting judgment
as  a  matter  of law to company that hired white applicant  over
black applicant solely based on merit).

     5     Villaflores, 170 P.3d at 665 (quoting Raad, 86 P.3d at
904).

     6     Raad,  86 P.3d at 904 (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)).

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

     8     AS  18.80.220(a)(1) (listing race and age as  unlawful
bases for refusing employment); Raad, 86 P.3d at 904 (stating the
test  for a prima facie showing of discrimination is not  applied
mechanistically  . . . and varies with the factual  circumstances
of the particular case).

          Villaflores argues that ConocoPhillips knew  his  race,
national origin, and age because his application stated  that  he
graduated from a university in the Philippines in 1983.   Because
there  is  no  direct  evidence  of  discrimination  and  because
Villaflores has failed to show that he was qualified for the job,
we do not need to discuss whether ConocoPhillips had knowledge of
Villafloress age or race when it failed to interview or hire him.

     9     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.  It involves  an
interpretation of 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.

     10    Millbrook, 280 F.3d at 1178.

     11    Id. (citations omitted).

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

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