Coghlan v. American Seafoods Co., 413 F.3d 1090 (9th Cir. 2005)

James Coghlan, a commercial fisherman, was employed by American Seafoods Company (ASC). In 1998, following a layoff, Coghlan retained his job as a master of one of ASC’s fishing trawlers. The person who was responsible for retaining Coghlan was Inge Andreassen, ASC’s Vice President of Operations, who was a man of Norwegian birth. Andreassen retained Coghlan even though there was at least one Norwegian candidate for the job. Coghlan was later transferred to be a mate (a step down from master) on another vessel, but he did not object because it gave him the opportunity to earn more money. When Coghlan was transferred back to his original vessel as a mate, he did object because Jarl Hogseth (a Norwegian) was appointed master. Coghlan sued ASC for national-origin discrimination in violation of Title VII. The district court granted summary judgment to ASC, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that ASC was entitled to the “same-actor inference” – “an employer’s initial willingness to hire the employee plaintiff is strong evidence that the employer is not biased against the protected class to which the employee belongs.”