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Toliver v. Alaska State Commission for Human Rights

279 P.3d 619 (2012)

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Toliver v. Alaska State Commission for Human Rights

Alaska Supreme Court

279 P.3d 619 (2012)

Facts

William Toliver (plaintiff), a Black man, frequented two Brown Jug liquor store branches, store 32 and store 55. Store 32’s assistant manager, Crystal Dockter, approached Toliver when he entered the store one evening, and they had a heated argument. Dockter wrote in store 32’s incident log that she banned Toliver “for causing problems and for cursing [her] out.” Toliver denied threatening or cursing at Dockter. Toliver complained to Brown Jug’s human-resources officer, O. C. Madden. During a meeting with Madden and co-owner Ed O’Neill, Toliver stated that he and others in the neighborhood thought that store 32 wanted to be a Whites-only store. After conferring with staff, Madden and O’Neill banned Toliver from store 32 but said he could continue to go to store 55. According to Toliver, during a conversation with store 55’s manager, Richard Senior, Senior shook his head and told Toliver that Senior thought what happened with store 32 was wrong. Toliver also collected a petition with 24 signatures and phone numbers of people who Toliver claimed were witnesses to store 32’s discriminatory practices. Toliver filed a complaint with the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights (the commission) (defendant), alleging that Brown Jug’s decision to ban him from store 32 was based on his race. During an intake interview and follow-up phone calls initiated by Toliver, Toliver told the commission’s investigator about his interaction with Senior and presented the petition. The investigator interviewed Dockter and Madden. The investigator did not interview Senior or anyone listed on the petition. The investigator claimed that Toliver failed to provide names of specific people who witnessed the alleged discrimination. Toliver claimed that he provided three names, but the commission’s records did not support that claim. The commission closed Toliver’s complaint after its investigator concluded that Toliver’s allegations were not supported by substantial evidence. Toliver appealed the commission’s order. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal, and Toliver again appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Matthews, J.)

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