Amini v. City of Minneapolis

Decision Date16 August 2011
Docket NumberNo. 10–2888.,10–2888.
Citation643 F.3d 1068,112 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 1089
PartiesHamid AMINI, Appellant,v.CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS, a municipality, Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit


Stephen Charles Fiebiger, argued, Burnsville, MN, for appellant.Sara Jeanne Lathrop, argued, Minneapolis, MN, for appellee.Before WOLLMAN, MURPHY, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.WOLLMAN, Circuit Judge.

After the City of Minneapolis did not hire Hamid Amini for a position with the Minneapolis Police Department, Amini, who was born in Afghanistan, filed suit, alleging that the City discriminated against him based on his race, color, and national origin, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The district court 1 granted summary judgment in favor of the City. We affirm.

I. Background
A. The Hiring Process

The police department announces officer vacancies on the City's website. To be considered, candidates must complete an application for employment. The candidates are also encouraged to complete a voluntary confidential information form, which asks about their race and gender, among other things. The form is not shared with the hiring decision-maker.

The human resources department reviews and scores the applications. If the candidates meet the minimum qualifications, they earn seventy points. Candidates earn additional points for other criteria, like work experience, and the scores are used to determine whether the candidates will be invited to complete fitness testing. If they pass the fitness test, the candidates may then complete an oral examination. The City describes the oral examination as a structured interview to evaluate qualities such as knowledge, judgment, decision-making ability, integrity, human relations, customer service, and oral communication skills. The results from the fitness test and the oral examination are weighted and added together, with veteran's preference points added to the scores of qualified candidates. Finally, the overall scores are ranked and the candidates are placed on the “eligible list.” Depending on the police department's needs, a certain number of candidates listed on the eligible list proceed to the background investigation phase. Minnesota law requires that background investigations be conducted on peace officer candidates. Minn.Stat. § 626.87.

The background investigation phase lasts approximately twelve weeks. The candidates complete an extensive questionnaire, and a background investigator is randomly assigned to each candidate. The investigator reviews the questionnaire, runs database checks, and requests information from the candidate's references, educational institutions, and former employers. The investigator might also visit the candidate's home or employer. Thereafter, the investigator interviews the candidate about his background and prepares a summary of the investigation. The summary does not include the candidate's name, age, gender, race, ethnicity, or national origin. Instead, candidates are assigned an identification number. The summaries are provided to the hiring board, also known as the roundtable panel, usually about a week or so before the panel convenes to discuss the candidates.

The panel is composed of members of the human resources department and high ranking members of the police department's administration. During the roundtable meeting, the panel discusses the candidates by their identification numbers. The panel relies on the background summaries to determine which candidates would be a “good fit” for the police department. Each candidate is given a recommendation of select, non-select, or select with reservations, and the recommendation is recorded on a tally sheet. The tally sheet, along with background summaries that show the candidate's name and corresponding identification number, are forwarded to the police chief or the designated final decision-maker.

After the police department determines how many candidates it intends to hire, human resources certifies the number of intended hires plus two 2 to the administration. From that list, the police chief or the chief's designee makes conditional job offers to the number of candidates they intend to hire. The candidate must then pass physical and mental examinations before the department extends a final job offer.

B. Amini's Interview Process

In May 2006, the Minneapolis police department posted job openings for police officers, and Amini submitted an application. His application indicated that he graduated from high school in Kabul, Afghanistan, and that he had lived in New Delhi, India.

Amini's application was awarded eighty-six points out of one hundred for his training and experience. Amini was invited to complete the fitness test and oral exam, which he did. Amini's overall score was 83.98, and he ranked sixty-third out of the eighty-three candidates on the eligible list. The top forty-nine candidates proceeded to the background phase. Given his rank, Amini was not among them, but he and the other candidates remained on the eligible list until it expired in October 2006, or until they were disqualified or invited to proceed in the hiring process.

In September 2006, the police department sought to hire additional police officers. The human resources department invited the remaining candidates from the previously compiled eligible list—those ranked fifty through eighty-three—to participate in background investigations. Amini submitted his background questionnaire, answering “no” to the following two questions: (1) “Were you ever named as a suspect, arrested or listed as an arrested person in a police report?” and (2) “Were you ever subjected to disciplinary action in connection with any employment?”

Officer Amy Caspers conducted Amini's background investigation. She learned that Amini had been listed as a suspect in a fifth degree assault in 1994. The public data from the police report read in part:

Victim and suspects had an argument over a parking space on the street. Victim parked his car and the suspects became mad and called the victim names and pulled his hair. Victim was able to obtain suspect # 1's license plate number. Victim worked with security personnel in gathering suspect info.

Caspers also discovered two written reprimands in Amini's employee file with Wackenhut Security.

Caspers conducted Amini's background interview. Officer Kara Peterson attended the interview, which was audio recorded. At the beginning of the interview, Caspers told Amini that if he forgot to document something in his application he could provide the information during the interview. When asked whether there was anything he forgot to document, Amini responded, “No.” Caspers later asked Amini if he had ever received any verbal or written reprimands from his employers. Amini answered that he had not, whereupon Caspers inquired about the two written reprimands on file with Wackenhut Security. Although Amini initially indicated that he did not remember the reprimands, he later stated that he remembered the incidents but believed that he had not received any written reprimands.

When Caspers asked whether Amini had had any contact with a law enforcement agency, he replied that he had not. Caspers asked about the 1994 police report that named him as a suspect. Amini responded that his brother had argued with the person who had made the complaint. Amini said that he was present, but that he was not involved in the dispute. After approximately two minutes of discussion, Caspers explained, “This is twelve years ago. I'm telling you you're listed as a suspect. It doesn't matter what happened back then, but I'm asking for any contact. You have had contact with a police officer that day.” Amini responded, “No. I didn't.” After Amini called the police report “absurd,” Peterson asked, “Why is this absurd?” Amini said, “Because this never hap—I wasn't involved....” According to Amini, “There were no police involved [in the dispute].”

Near the end of the interview, Amini revisited the topic of the reprimands and the police report. After some discussion, Amini said, “If I was aware of [the written reprimands], I would tell you, ‘I was reprimanded, so what's the big deal?’

Caspers: I understand that you're mad at Wackenhut [Security] because you have these reprimands in your file, but don't get defensive and don't start saying it's not a big deal. Because this is your final step to get where you want to go with the police department....

Amini: I wouldn't hide it.

Caspers: I'm not saying you would hide it. But it is a big deal to us the way you are reacting. And the way you are reacting to this is kind of a big deal.... You don't have to fight with me about what I find on you.

The next day, Amini called Caspers to apologize “if [he] overreacted.” He explained that his son had broken his arm, he had not slept in two days, and he had come to the interview after working the night shift.

Caspers prepared an eighteen-page summary on Amini, setting forth the results of her investigation. The summary identified Amini only by candidate number; it did not list his name, national origin, race, or color, although it did note that he had lived in Afghanistan and India. The final paragraph of the conclusion provided:

When the candidate was shown the documentation regarding the two written reprimands from his/her employment with Wackenhut and the police report regarding the Assault 5, the candidate became very defensive, agitated and argumentative. The candidate wanted these items removed from his/her background investigation since he/she stated he/she did not know about the reprimands and called the police report absurd[.] On December 29, 2006, the candidate left a voice mail regarding his/her behavior during the interview. The candidate...

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