by Rick Anderson
Victor Guerrero, wrongly denied a chance to apply as a California prison guard after disclosing he had once used a false Social Security number to obtain a job, can now seek additional damages from the state, an appeals court ruled Nov. 7, 2018.
Guerrero had already won a ruling that state prison officials had discriminated against him based on his national origin. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. District Judge William Alsup awarded Guerrero $140,000 in lost pay and $1.4 million in attorneys’ fees and costs in 2016.
He also ordered the state to reconsider Guerrero’s job application. He was accepted and now has worked as a guard at a Central Valley prison for 2½ years, his lawyer said.
Guerrero also sought damages under California law for the emotional harm caused by the rejection of his application. He filed a separate suit in San Francisco Superior Court, but it was rejected. The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco disagreed and reinstated the suit.
Guerrero was brought to the United States from Mexico by his parents in 1990 at age 11, the Chronicle said. Needing a job at age 15 to help pay the family’s bills, he was taken to a service that provided fake Social Security numbers.
He did not know for several years that the number was fictitious and that he was undocumented, said attorney Christopher Ho of the nonprofit Legal Aid at Work, which represents Guerrero. He continued to use the fake number until 2007, when he became a legal resident and obtained a legitimate Social Security number.
Guerrero became a U.S. citizen in 2011 and then applied to work as a prison guard. He passed the written and physical exams but was disqualified after admitting he once used a different Social Security number.
Judge Alsup said the department had discriminated against Guerrero by using his answer to disqualify him, rather than considering his overall qualification. Ho, the attorney, said the department had used the same method to reject nine applicants, all of them Latino, over a period of several years.
Sources: San Francisco Chronicle, First District Court of Appeals records.
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