The State Worker

CDCR sued for refusing employment to former illegal immigrant

A Stockton resident has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for rejecting his job applications after he admitted using a stolen Social Security number given to him at the age of 15.

The Record reports that Victor Guerrero, who is now in his mid-30s and a U.S. citizen since 2010, alleges in a complaint filed in San Francisco on Monday that CDCR twice rejected him for a correctional-officer job because of his former illegal status. In 2011 and again this year he passed written and physical agility tests and truthfully answered “yes” to Question No. 75 of the job questionnaire that asks whether he “had or used a social security number other than the one you used on this questionnaire.”

Guerrero also attached an explanation: He was given the Social Security number as a teenager so he could start working in 1995. He didn’t know he was undocumented and that the number was not his own until 1997. Guerrero continued to use the Social Security number to find work, but paid taxes from 1997 to 2007 with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The IRS issues the ID numbers to people who are ineligible for Social Security numbers so that they can pay taxes.

The government issued a Social Security number to Guerrero in 2007 when he became a legal permanent resident, according to the lawsuit. In 2010 he became a U.S. citizen.

Corrections rejected his applications, Guerrero says, with a letter that said his prior use of another person’s Social Security number “shows a lack of honesty, integrity, and good judgment” that are prerequisites for the correctional officer position.

Guerrero appealed the second rejection to the State Personnel Board, which sided with corrections.

Corrections officials declined to comment on the litigation, which alleges that “(corrections) disqualification of applicants who have previously used an SSN other than their own has an adverse and disproportionate impact upon the ability of Latino/as to qualify for state employment.”

Guerrero wants the court to award him unspecified pain, suffering and punitive damages, with interest and adjusted for inflation and to restore his eligibility to become a correctional officer. He also asked the court to ban the state from disqualifying job applicants who have used a Social Security number other than their own.

The San Francisco-based Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center is helping Guerrero sue the state.