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Fragante v. City and County of Honolulu

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
888 F.2d 591 (9th Cir. 1989)


In April 1981, Manuel Fragante (plaintiff) moved to Hawaii from the Philippines. Fragante saw an advertisement for a position as a civil-service clerk for the City and County of Honolulu (Honolulu). One of the primary responsibilities of a clerk was to verbally provide information to 200 to 300 people per day. Fragante applied for the position and received the highest score on the written test. Fragante then had an oral interview with two interviewers. Both interviewers noted that Fragante spoke with a heavy accent, which made it difficult to understand him. The interviewers gave Fragante a negative recommendation based on Fragante’s oral-communication skills. As a result, Fragante’s position on the civil-service list of candidates fell from first to third. Honolulu hired the two candidates who had superior verbal communication skills and had ultimately ranked higher than Fragante. Fragante sued Honolulu, claiming that he had been discriminated against based on his national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The district court found that effective oral-communication skills were a legitimate occupational qualification for a clerk position. The district court found that Fragante’s non-selection was due to his lack of oral-communication skills, not due to his national origin, and dismissed the complaint. Fragante appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Trott, J.)

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