Law School Case Brief
Soroka v. Dayton Hudson Corp. - 18 Cal. App. 4th 1200, 1 Cal. Rptr. 2d 77 (1991)
When a trial court decides whether to issue a preliminary injunction, it must consider the likelihood that the plaintiffs will prevail on the merits at trial. On appeal from an order denying a preliminary injunction, the appellate court does not ordinarily decide the merits of the complaint, but determines only whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying the injunction. The appellants bear the burden of making a clear showing of abuse. The appellate court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party, drawing all reasonable inferences in its favor and resolving conflicts in the evidence in favor of the trial court's order. Courts should resolve dispositive statutory issues before reaching constitutional issues.
Appellant job applicants Sibi Soroka, Sue Urry and William d'Arcangelo filed a class action challenging respondent Dayton Hudson Corporation's ("Target") practice of requiring Target Store security officer applicants to pass a psychological screening. The trial court denied Soroka's motion for a preliminary injunction to prohibit the use of this screening pending the outcome of this litigation. It also denied Soroka's motion for class certification and granted Dayton’s motion to deny class certification. Soroka appealed from these orders, contending that a preliminary injunction should issue because he was likely to prevail on the merits of his constitutional and statutory claims. He also argued that the trial court should have certified the class. The American Civil Liberties Union ("ACLU") filed an amicus brief in support of Soroka's constitutional right to privacy claims.
Did the trial court err in denying a preliminary injunction to prohibit the use of a certain pre-employment psychological testing where the balance of harms fell in favor of a job applicant, who was likely to prevail on the merits of his statutory and constitutional claims, that the prospective employer discriminated in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation and religious beliefs?
Target conceded that the "Psychscreen" constituted an intrusion on the privacy rights of the applicants, although it characterizesd the intrusion as a limited one. The appellate court reversed the order denying Soroka’s motion for a preliminary injunction because the trial court abused its discretion by erroneously applying a reasonableness test. The court explained that even the constitutional right to privacy does not prohibit all incursion into individual privacy. The court agreed with Soroka and the ACLU's contention that Target must show more than reasonableness--that it must demonstrate a compelling interest--to justify its use of the Psychscreen. The court found that the balance of harms fell in favor of Soroka, who was likely to prevail at trial on his constitutional and statutory claims that Target's violation of his right to privacy was not justified by a compelling interest. The court found that the questions about religious belief and sexual orientation were unnecessary and had no direct nexus with job duties or furthering Target's interest in employing emotionally stable persons. The court held that the inquiry impermissibly expressed a specification of a religious creed in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act and attempted to coerce an applicant from expressing a homosexual orientation in violation of Cal. Lab. Code §§ 1101 and 1102. The court explained that a means of selection that is facially neutral but that has an adverse impact on persons on the basis of religious creed is permissible only on a showing that the selection process is sufficiently related to an essential function of the job in question to warrant its use. The court remanded the order granting Target's motion to deny class certification.
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