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A minority-run company has the same right to sue for race discrimination as a person, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week. “When a corporation has acquired a racial identity, either as a matter of law or by imputation, then it can be the direct target of discrimination and has standing to pursue a claim under �1981,” Judge Sidney Thomas wrote. Thomas was joined by judges A. Wallace Tashima and Barry Silverman. The ruling arose out of litigation between Thinket Ink Information Resources Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. Thinket, which used to provide technology services to Sun, accused the networking giant of discrimination after the two companies had a falling out. Thinket Ink Info. Resources Inc. v. Sun Microsystems Inc., No. 04 C.D.O.S. 4236. In reaching its decision, the panel began by examining a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., 429 U.S. 252, which held that a corporation “has no racial identity.” Exceptions found But courts have found exceptions since 1977, and Thinket’s case is one of those, the panel ruled. The decision expands court interpretation of standing when it comes to corporate discrimination. Thinket is a federally certified minority-owned contractor “operated by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals,” Thomas wrote. Each of the company’s shareholders is black. The attorney who argued the case for Thinket, Raymond Bola�os, could not be reached for comment, nor could representatives of the company. Although the 9th Circuit’s ruling is a victory, Thinket’s case against Sun is by no means a slam-dunk; it has already lost in arbitration and Judge Susan Illston of the Northern District of California has ruled that Thinket’s subsequent suit was not filed on time. But the 9th Circuit sent the matter back to Illston to reconsider timeliness in light of Jones v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. (U.S. May 3), which allows four years to file some federal claims instead of California’s one-year statute of limitations. An attorney for Sun, Alfred Pfeiffer Jr. of Bingham McCutchen, said he doesn’t believe that Thinket’s suit will survive. “I believe the correct legal result would be to continue to hold that these claims are time-barred,” he said.

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