State can hire nonresidents
The attorney general plans to appeal, after a federal judge bans the residency rule
A law that prohibits nonresidents from applying for state jobs is unconstitutional, a federal judge has ruled.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge David Ezra says the law is discriminatory and violates a person's right to move from state to state.
Ezra's ruling, issued last week, makes permanent a preliminary injunction granted to the plaintiffs in February.
Attorney General Mark Bennett said the ruling was not surprising, given Ezra's previous decision on the preliminary injunction. He said the state plans to appeal.
"Basically, he reiterated what he already ruled," Bennett said. "It was our expectation that he wasn't going to change his mind."
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state last year on behalf of two Florida men whose applications for various public jobs were rejected solely because they were not Hawaii residents when they applied. The plaintiffs were joined later by a New Jersey man and a Massachusetts woman.
"Hawaii's employers can now welcome nonresident job applicants with the same aloha spirit it bestows to resident job applicants," said Steven Annarelli, the New Jersey man, in a statement released by the ACLU.
The pre-employment residency requirement was enacted in the 1970s under then-Gov. George Ariyoshi and later adopted by the counties. It was aimed at discouraging people from moving to the islands at a time when officials feared new residents would deplete state resources.
Bennett previously argued that the state expends a lot of resources and training, and should have the right to reserve employment to those who commit to becoming residents before they can receive public money or employment.
In his 17-page ruling, Ezra noted that Hawaii courts consistently have ruled against other statutes that imposed residency requirements.
The ACLU estimates there are about 450 vacant state jobs, many at correctional facilities, hospitals and other agencies that provide public services.
Lois Perrin, attorney for the ACLU in Hawaii, applauded Ezra's ruling, saying it should help fill those jobs.
"It means that nonresidents throughout the United States may apply for any government job in the state of Hawaii," Perrin said. "By broadening the applicant base for public employment, we are hopeful that long-standing vacancies will be filled with qualified individuals."
A proposal to amend the state law and remove the requirement advanced in the House this year but was not granted a hearing in the Senate.
Bennett said it was too early to say whether similar legislation would be introduced next year.