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Job applicant awarded $1M after being rejected for admitting to previously using a false SSN

A federal court in California ruled that a job applicant’s admission that he used a false Social Security number cannot be the basis for disqualifying him from employment on good moral character grounds.

The court awarded the plaintiff over $1 million dollars as a result of the employer’s actions.

During an interview and routine background check, the plaintiff admitted to previously using a false SSN to seek employment. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) denied his employment application and sent him a rejection letter stating that his past usage of a false SSN showed that he was “not suitable to assume the duties and responsibilities of a peace officer.”

The letter also stated that using the SSN showed a “willful disregard of the law” and a “lack of honesty, integrity, and good judgment.”

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the CDCR seeking damages based on a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. He argued that as a Latino job applicant, he was subjected to national origin discrimination because the job application process required him to disclose that he had used a false SSN in the past.

The court held that while California law required the CDCR to conduct a background investigation to ensure good moral character, the “good moral character” hiring policy had a significant disparate impact on Latino applicants like Guerrero, even though it was facially neutral. In light of that, the CDCR had a duty to apply the relevant EEOC factors – which it failed to do – resulting in the court ruling in favor of Guerrero on the Title VII disparate impact claim.

Source: Fisher Phillips, 8/1/2016

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