In Conitz v. Teck Alaska, a case involving shareholder preferences closely watched by ANCSA corporations and others, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit issued a brief unpublished decision affirming the district court’s judgment in favor of Teck Alaska and NANA Regional Corporation.
Gregg Conitz worked for Teck Alaska at the Red Dog mine. He filed suit alleging he was passed over for promotion because Teck Alaska applied NANA’s shareholder preference policy. He argued that the policy constituted impermissible race discrimination because most shareholders are Alaska Natives. The lawsuit was substantially similar to a prior suit he filed making the same claims.
The district court held that the shareholder preference was not a racial preference but instead a political preference based on shareholder status. The court observed that non-Natives could be shareholders. Furthermore, the court concluded that Conitz was not as qualified for the promotion as the person who was promoted. Conitz appealed.
The 9th Circuit affirmed in a brief unpublished decision. The court noted that the shareholder preference was only used as a tiebreaker between two equally qualified candidates, and that it did not favor Alaska Natives but instead shareholders. Therefore, the preference was not facially discriminatory and no direct discrimination could be found.
The court concluded that Conitz failed to establish a prima facie case under McDonnell Douglas because he did not show he was more qualified for the position being sought than the person who was promoted. As with the prior case, the court did not need to reach the question whether the shareholder preference policy constituted racial discrimination in violation of Title VII because, by failing to establish a prima facie case, Conitz failed to show how the policy adversely affected him.
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