Baker v. Alaska State Commission for Human Rights
In Baker v. Alaska State Commission for Human Rights, 476 P.3d 1120 (Alaska 2020), the supreme court held a commission’s dismissal of a discrimination complaint was not so arbitrary and capricious as to offend due process (id. at 1127) and there was no substantial evidence to support a retaliation complaint. (Id. at 1129). Baker, a pilot for Federal Express Corporation (FedEx), relocated to Hong Kong and elected to receive a relocation package that required the permanent relocation of one’s spouse, if applicable. (Id. at 1121–22). Baker represented that his wife had moved to Hong Kong and collected the housing allowance payments. (Id. at 1122). Upon discovery that Baker’s wife only spent nine days in Hong Kong throughout this period, FedEx notified Baker that he was under investigation for having improperly received the payments. (Id.). After Baker rejected a proposed settlement, a hearing officer recommended that his employment with FedEx be terminated. (Id. at 1123). Throughout these processes, Baker filed complaints with the Alaska State Commission on Human Rights alleging that FedEx engaged in marital status discrimination and that FedEx retaliated against him for filing a complaint. (Id. at 1121). Ultimately, the Commission found substantial evidence that FedEx had discriminated against married pilots, but dismissed the case, explaining that a hearing would not be the best use of its resources. (Id. at 1124). The supreme court upheld the dismissal as a valid exercise of the Commission’s discretion. (Id. at 1127). It also found that, because Baker received the same procedural protections and disciplinary consequences as other similarly situated pilots, there was no evidence of a causal connection between his discharge and his complaint. (Id. at 1129). Affirming the superior court’s decision, the supreme court held that the Commission’s decision to dismiss the discrimination complaint was not so arbitrary and capricious as to offend due process (id. at 1127) and there was no substantial evidence to support a retaliation complaint. (Id. at 1129).