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Friday, January 10, 2014

Horne v. International Union of Painters and Allied Trades: Court Allows After-Acquired Evidence to Show That Plaintiff Was Not Qualified for Position in FEHA Action

Horne v. International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 16 (12/3/13) --- Cal.App.4th ---, deals with the after-acquired evidence doctrine in a FEHA discrimination case.

The plaintiff, Horne, sued the defendant, a labor union, for failing to hire him as a union organizer. During discovery, the union learned that Horne had a prior conviction for possession of narcotics for sale. The union moved for summary judgment, arguing that 
under federal law, the conviction rendered Horne ineligible for the position sought. The trial court granted the motion, Horne appealed, and the Court of Appeal affirmed.

The Court held that Horne failed to establish a prima facie case of racial discrimination because the undisputed evidence showed that his criminal conviction rendered him unqualified for the organizer position for which he was not hired. 29 U.S.C. § 504(a)(2). Slip op. at 4-5.

The after-acquired evidence doctrine did not preclude the trial court from considering this evidence even though the union did not know of the conviction at the time it decided not to hire Horne: 
The after-acquired evidence doctrine applies to bar consideration of Horne’s criminal record and the federal law rendering him ineligible for the organizer position if the issue is the council’s motive for not hiring him in February 2010... But the council’s motive in declining to hire Horne is not at issue unless he first establishes a prima facie case of racial discrimination, including evidence that he was qualified for the organizer position.
Slip op. at 5. Evidence that the applicant was disqualified as a matter of law at the time of the employment decision is relevant, whenever the employer acquired that information. Slip op. at 6. 

In the second part of the opinion, the Court held that the conviction at issue did in fact render Horne ineligible for the position sought. Slip op. at 7-8. 

The opinion is available here

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