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Rodriguez v. Alaska State Commission for Human Rights

Supreme Court of Alaska

August 14, 2015

LUIS R. RODRIGUEZ, Appellant,
v.
ALASKA STATE COMMISSION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, Appellee.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Gregory Miller, Judge.

Luis R. Rodriguez, pro se, Anchorage, Appellant.

William E. Milks, Assistant Attorney General, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.

OPINION

WINFREE, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

An airline employee filed a complaint with the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights, alleging employment discrimination based on his race. The Commission initiated an investigation as required by statute. After the investigation the Commission concluded that the employee's racial discrimination allegations were not supported by substantial evidence, and the Commission dismissed the complaint without holding a hearing. The employee appealed to the superior court, and the superior court affirmed the Commission's conclusion that the employee's complaint was not supported by substantial evidence. The employee appealed to us. Because we agree that the employee failed to present the Commission substantial evidence of race-based discrimination, we affirm the superior court's decision affirming the Commission's dismissal of the employee's discrimination complaint.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Luis Rodriguez is a gay Hispanic man employed by Delta Airlines, Inc. In November 2010 Rodriguez filed a complaint with the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights, accusing Delta of race-based discrimination. Rodriguez alleged that Delta (1) "did not delete the position of a Caucasian coworker with less seniority, " and (2) "recently brought another Caucasian employee with less seniority . . . back from layoff status."

A. Commission-Developed Facts And Decision

The Commission notified Rodriguez and Delta that it had initiated an investigation to determine whether Rodriguez's discrimination complaint was supported by substantial evidence. A Commission investigator interviewed Rodriguez, his union representative, and Delta staff. The investigator also reviewed Delta's position statement and Delta's responses to information requests.

The Commission determined that Rodriguez previously had worked for Northwest Airlines and became a Delta employee when the two airlines merged. Rodriguez had been employed as an equipment service employee (ESE) in cargo operations in Anchorage. In December 2009 Delta had informed Rodriguez and other ESEs that they would be furloughed from their positions as full-time cargo-operations ESEs. Delta explained to the Commission that this furlough "caused [Rodriguez and the other cargo-operations ESEs] to transfer to similar ESE positions working with scheduled passenger flights on the aircraft operations ramp." Furloughed employees were offered part-time temporary positions in Anchorage. But under the terms of his union's collective bargaining agreement, when furloughed Rodriguez also was entitled to exercise his seniority and displace a junior ESE at another location. In May 2010 Rodriguez exercised his seniority and requested a transfer to Seattle.

Rodriguez told the Commission that he did not have the opportunity to bid for a part-time position in Anchorage, and that a Caucasian employee with less seniority was allowed to remain in a position in Anchorage. Rodriguez also asserted that while working on the ramp in Anchorage, after the furlough from cargo operations, he "was constantly harassed (called 'faggot' and other names) by his supervisor Nash and several coworkers." In April 2010 Delta received complaints about Nash's behavior, subsequently conducted an investigation, and in July terminated Nash's employment. During the investigation Rodriguez informed Delta that Nash gave Rodriguez no overtime, harassed him, made comments about his sexuality, and retaliated against him for reporting to management.

Approximately two weeks after accepting the Seattle position, and before working a single shift, Rodriguez requested a transfer back to Anchorage. Delta granted Rodriguez's request and in July, shortly after Nash had been terminated, Delta offered Rodriguez a temporary ESE position in Anchorage. After returning to Anchorage Rodriguez worked one day but then called in sick for his next five shifts. Delta informed the Commission that Rodriguez had then "abruptly requested to end his temporary assignment and return to furlough status."

Rodriguez attempted to justify to the Commission his poor work attendance and furlough request, explaining that his union representative recommended layoff status because Rodriguez was depressed, stressed, and afraid after receiving harassing telephone calls from Nash. Rodriguez asserted that he reported the calls but Delta human resources would not allow him to take stress-based injury leave and would not allow him to return to furlough status without providing ...


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