In Horne v. Int’l Union Painters et al., Dist. Council 16, ___ Cal.App.4th ___ (Dec. 3, 2013), the California Court of Appeal (First Appellate District, Division Four) affirmed the Alameda County Superior Court’s order granting summary judgment to defendants District Council 16 International Union of Painters and Allied Trades on plaintiff Raymond E. Horne’s employment discrimination claims.

Plaintiff claimed that defendants refused to hire him as an organizer because of his race (African-American).  During discovery, however, plaintiff admitted that he had been convicted of possession of narcotics for sale in 1997, which defendants did not know at the time the hiring decisions were made.

Defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting that plaintiff was not qualified for the organizer position because federal law (29 U.S.C. § 504(a)) barred him from employment. The trial court agreed, concluding that plaintiff was unable to establish a prima facie case of race discrimination because he did not show that he was qualified for the job for which he applied.  Plaintiff appealed, contending that the after-acquired evidence doctrine precluded consideration of evidence of the impact of his prior conviction on the issue of his qualification for a union organizer position.

The appellate court affirmed summary judgment, finding that the after-acquired evidence doctrine would have been relevant only with regard to defendants’ motive in deciding not to hire plaintiff. But defendants’ motive was not at issue until plaintiff first established a prima facie case of racial discrimination, including evidence that he was qualified for the organizer position. “When the issue before the trial court is not employer motive but applicant qualification, 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.”