Racial discrimination in hiring
The ACLU of Minnesota filed an amicus curiae brief in this important case involving interpretation of Minnesota anti-discrimination laws. The case involved the question of whether an employer can escape liability for discriminatory failure to hire based on evidence that they discover after the discriminatory decision, which would render the applicant ineligible for employment.
In this case, the African-American plaintiff alleged that he was passed over for employment when two less-qualified white people were hired for the job for which he applied. After he filed his discrimination claim, the employer discovered that he lied on his application by stating that he had never been convicted of a felony when he actually had been convicted of a felony ten to twelve years before. A Minnesota district court held that the plaintiff's case was barred from review because the after-acquired information would have disqualified him from employment. Because courts are not bound by federal court decisions when they interpret Minnesota's Human Rights Act, the district court, in this case, was able to rely on a pre-McKennon case to find that, in Minnesota, after-acquired evidence can bar a discrimination claim.The plaintiff filed an appeal and the ACLU of Minnesota submitted its brief. The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled for the plaintiff and allowed him to pursue his discrimination claim. The defendants appealed the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
In its brief, the ACLU of Minnesota argued that the "after-acquired evidence doctrine" should not be applied to bar a discrimination claim because it undermines the nature of anti-discrimination laws. To allow discriminatory conduct to escape redress simply because the employer finds newly discovered reasons that might have justified their decision would reward employers who are engaged in discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court came to this conclusion over ten years ago in a case called McKennon v. Nashville Banner Publishing Company. The Court ruled for a complete bar to recovery for discrimination but did recognize that a number of damages could be limited based on the after-acquired evidence.