Gonzalez v. City of Minneapolis, 02-710(PAM/RLE).

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
Citation267 F.Supp.2d 1004
Docket NumberNo. 02-710(PAM/RLE).,02-710(PAM/RLE).
PartiesJuan V. GONZALEZ, Plaintiff v. CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS, Defendant.
Decision Date13 June 2003
267 F.Supp.2d 1004
Juan V. GONZALEZ, Plaintiff
No. 02-710(PAM/RLE).
United States District Court, D. Minnesota.
June 13, 2003.

Page 1005


Page 1006

Elizabeth A Cloutier, Cloutier & Cloutier, Mpls, for Plaintiffs Counsel.

Caroline Marie Bachun, Mpls City Atty, Mpls, for Defendant's Counsel.


MAGNUSON, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs claims. For the following reasons, the Court grants the Motion in part and denies the Motion in part.


Plaintiff Juan V. Gonzalez was employed by Defendant City of Minneapolis ("the City") for fifteen years as a laborer and street maintenance worker. Throughout

Page 1007

that time, Gonzalez suffered several serious injuries both at work and in two car accidents that had no relation to his employment. Gonzalez has undergone three separate shoulder surgeries and one neck surgery as part of the treatment for his various injuries. Gonzalez also entered a drug rehabilitation program as a result of an addiction to pain medication in November of 2000.

On March 1, 2001, Gonzalez requested time off for neck and back pain. On March 7 and 9, 2001, Gonzalez requested time off work for chronic pain. On March 12, 2001, Gonzalez called in sick after his shift had started in violation of a rule requiring employees to call in sick before the shift begins. As a result, the city held an administrative hearing on March 22, 2001, regarding Gonzalez's work performance, including the March 12 violation, excessive use of sick leave, and the use of sick leave that had yet to accrue. At the meeting the City decided to place Gonzalez on "Sick Leave Restriction," meaning that Gonzalez would have to obtain a doctor's statement to cover any time off. In addition, the City suspended Gonzalez for two days.

At the beginning of April, Gonzalez took two weeks off for health reasons without obtaining a doctor's permission. The City scheduled a meeting for April 17, 2001, to discuss this absence. Gonzalez missed that meeting and a second meeting was scheduled, this time for April 20, 2001. Gonzalez missed this meeting as well. Because he missed the April 20, 2001 meeting, the City decided to terminate Gonzalez. The City states the reason for its decision as tardiness and absenteeism, sick leave abuse, and a violation of department rules, policies, procedures or City ordinance. (Gonzalez Dep. Ex. 32.)

Gonzalez made two phone calls to his supervisor regarding the two missed meetings. In both calls, he apologized for missing the meetings and stated that he knew what the consequences would be: dismissal. He also recounted the distress in his life, stating that he felt too "emotionally spent" to attend. (Gonzalez Dep. at 69-70.) On April 17, 2001, Gonzalez received documentation from his doctor stating that he could not work from April 2 through April 22, 2001. The parties dispute when the City received the doctor's leave notice from Gonzalez.

The Court identifies the following claims in Gonzalez's Complaint. First, Gonzalez makes several retaliation claims, including retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12203(a), the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2615(b)(1), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a), the Minnesota Human Rights Act ("MHRA"), Minn. Stat. § 363.03, subd. 7, the Minnesota Workers' Compensation Act, ("WCA"), Minn.Stat. § 176.82, subd.1, and the Minneapolis Civil Rights Ordinance ("MCRO"), Minneapolis, Minn., Code of Ordinances § 139.40(1). Next, Gonzalez brings a claim for disability discrimination under the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12112, the WCA, Minn.Stat. § 176.82, subd.2, the MHRA, Minn.Stat. § 363.03, subd. 1, and the MCRO, § 139.40(b). Third, Gonzalez brings a claim for national origin discrimination, based on an alleged hostile work environment and disparate treatment, under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(m), the MHRA, Minn.Stat. § 363.03, subd. 1, and the MCRO, § 139.40(b). Fourth, Gonzalez also claims that he faced a hostile work environment on the basis of disability. Fifth, Gonzalez brings a claim for breach of contract based on the City's alleged failure to follow the termination procedures specified in its contract with Gonzalez. Finally, Gonzalez raises a claim

Page 1008

sounding in tort for negligent supervision and retention of employees. The City moves for Summary Judgment on all of Gonzalez's claims.


A. Standard of Review

The City moves for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(c), which provides that such a motion shall be granted only if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and ... the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence and the inferences that may be reasonably drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Enter. Bank v. Magna Bank, 92 F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir.1996). The burden of demonstrating that there are no genuine issues of material fact rests on the moving party. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). If the moving party has carried its burden, the non-moving party must demonstrate the existence of specific facts in the record that create a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Krenik v. County ofLeSueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir.1995).

B. Recent Supreme Court Decision

Prior to the recent Supreme Court decision in Desert Palace, Inc. v. Costa, ___ U.S. ___, 123 S.Ct. 2148, 156 L.Ed.2d 84 (2003), all of Gonzalez's claims for discrimination and retaliation would have been analyzed under the traditional burden-shifting paradigm articulated in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). Under this approach, once a plaintiff has established a prima facie case of discrimination, the defendant has the burden to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its decision. At that point, the burden would shift back to the plaintiff to show that the defendant's proffered legitimate reason for the employment action was a pretext for an illegitimate, discriminatory motive. The alternatives to the McDonnell Douglas pretext scheme are those articulated in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 269-70, 109 S.Ct. 1775, 104 L.Ed.2d 268 (1989) and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

In Price Waterhouse, the four-justice plurality determined that mixed-motive cases required a different test than singlemotive cases. Id. at 240 n. 6, 109 S.Ct. 1775. Instead of requiring the defendant to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employment action and requiring the plaintiff to prove that the proffered reason is a pretext for discriminatory motive, the defendant would have to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that it would have made the same decision regardless of the plaintiffs membership in a protected class. Id. at 258, 109 S.Ct. 1775. This test has come to be known as "the same decision test." In her concurring opinion, now considered the controlling opinion, Justice O'Connor narrowed the reach of the four-justice plurality by concluding that the defendant should bear the burden of proof in mixed-motive cases only where the plaintiff has first presented direct evidence that the employer's "decisional process has been substantially infected by discrimination." Id, at 269-70, 109 S.Ct. 1775.

Subsequently, the Eighth Circuit instructed lower courts to analyze cases under either the McDonnell Douglas or the Price Waterhouse paradigm depending entirely on whether the plaintiff had presented direct or indirect evidence of discrimination:

Page 1009

The framework for evaluating a Title VII discrimination claim depends on the type of evidence presented in support of the claim. Where the plaintiff relies primarily on circumstantial evidence, courts apply a tripartite analysis as set forth in [McDonnell Douglas ]....

In some situations, however, a plaintiff can produce direct evidence that an illegal criterion was a motivating factor in the disputed employment decision.... In those cases, the plaintiff is relieved of the ultimate burden of persuasion and the so-called "mixed motive" analysis is applied.

Mohr v. Dustrol, Inc. 306 F.3d 636, 639-40 (8th Cir.2002) (citing Price Waterhouse, (generally) and Gagnon v. Sprint Corp., 284 F.3d 839, 847-49 (8th Cir.2002)). Only rarely did plaintiffs present direct evidence of a discriminatory motive. Thus, application of the McDonnell Douglas paradigm was much more common than the alternative burden-shifting scheme set forth in Price Waterhouse and revised by the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

Shortly after the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Price Waterhouse, Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which amended Title VII. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 states that a plaintiff satisfies its burden of proof when he "demonstrates that race, color, religion, sex, or national origin was a motivating factor for any employment practice." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(m). In response, a defendant may avoid having to pay damages by proving an affirmative defense that it "would have taken the same action in the absence of the impermissible motivating factor." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g)(2)(B). Thus, instead of requiring the defendant to produce a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason and then shifting the burden of proof to plaintiff to prove that this proffered nondiscriminatory reason was false and a pretext for a discriminatory motive, the defendant bears the burden of proof on the "same decision test."

In Costa v. Desert Palace, Inc., 299 F.3d 838 (9th Cir.2002), cert, granted, 537 U.S. 1099, 123 S.Ct. 816, 154 L.Ed.2d 766 (2003), the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
4 cases
  • Riesen v. Irwin Indus. Tool Co., S-05-208.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • July 21, 2006
    ...apply the above-described analysis to workers' compensation retaliatory discharge cases. See, e.g., Gonzalez v. City of Minneapolis, 267 F.Supp.2d 1004 (D.Minn.2003) (applying Minnesota law); Provo v. Continental Eagle Corp., 650 So.2d 881 (Ala.1994); Ford v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield, 216......
  • Springer v. McLANE COMPANY, INC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • February 11, 2010
    ...v. Ford Motor Co., Civ. No. 03-5027, 2005 WL 419693, at *6 (D.Minn. Feb. 17, 2005) (Frank, J.); Gonzalez v. City of Minneapolis, 267 F.Supp.2d 1004, 1016 (D.Minn.2003) (Magnuson, J.); Sullivan v. Spot Weld, Inc., 560 N.W.2d 712, 717 CONCLUSION Based on the foregoing, and all the files, reco......
  • Regan v. Natural Resources Group, Inc., CIV.03-5670 PAM/RLE.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • November 23, 2004
    ...before he requested Page 1011 FMLA leave, Regan cannot meet the third prong of the prima facie case. Gonzalez v. City of Minneapolis, 267 F.Supp.2d 1004, 1012-13 (D.Minn.2003) (Magnuson, Regan requested FMLA leave on April 25, 2003 — four days after Grothe informed him of the layoff, three ......
  • Henderson v. City of Minneapolis
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • October 16, 2013
    ...VII & §§1981, 1983); Rahlf v. Mo-Tech Corp., Inc., 642 F.3d 633, 637 (8th Cir. 2011) (ADEA & MHRA); Gonzalez v. City of Minneapolis, 267 F. Supp. 2d 1004, 1011 (D. Minn. 2003) (MCRO); Henderson v. Ford Motor Co., 403 F.3d 1026, 1032, 1034 (8th Cir. 2005) (ADA). Under the McDonnell Douglas f......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT