MINNEAPOLIS PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY  
attorney Michael E. Douglas Attorney at Law
  Personal Injury Attorney
  St. Paul Workers Compensation Lawyer work comp attorney
 > About Me
   :: My Commitment
   :: Our Community
   
 > Legal Practice Areas
  twin cities comsumer lawPersonal Injury
   :: Traffic Accidents
   :: Medical Malpractice
   :: Social Security Disability
   :: Premises Liability
   :: Wrongful Death
   :: Dog Bite
   :: Back/Spinal/Neck Injuries
   :: Whiplash
   :: Defective Medical Devices
   :: Defective Drugs
  Minnesota Personal InjuryWorkers Compensation
  St. Paul personal injuryConsumer Law
   :: Debt Collection
   :: Repossessions
   :: Foreclosures
   :: Loan, Credit, Banking
   :: Arbitration Agreements
   :: Deception and Fraud
   :: Auto Fraud / Lemon Law
   :: Warranties
   :: Predatory Lending
   
 > Contact Us
   :: Contact Us
 

Law Offices of Michael E. Douglas
P.O. Box 251551
Woodbury, Minnesota 55125-6551
   

 Saint Paul Lawyer
 
 mdouglas@injurylawtwincities.com

 

Urich v. Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance: US District Court : EMPLOYMENT - discriminatory failure-to-promote claims dismissed on summary judgment

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
Mescal N. Urich and
D. Lynne Daniels,
Plaintiffs,
MEMORANDUM OPINION
v. AND ORDER
Civil No. 07-1309 ADM/JSM
Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance,
Defendant.
______________________________________________________________________________
William F. Mohrman, Esq., Mohrman & Kaardal, P.A., Minneapolis, MN, argued on behalf of
Plaintiffs.
Sara Gullickson McGrane, Esq., Felhaber, Larson, Fenlon & Vogt, P.A., Minneapolis, MN,
argued on behalf of Defendant.
______________________________________________________________________________
I. INTRODUCTION
On May 8, 2008, the undersigned United States District Judge heard oral argument on
Defendant Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistances (MMLA) Motion for Summary Judgment
[Docket No. 33]. Plaintiffs Mescal N. Urich (Urich) and D. Lynne Daniels (Daniels) assert
claims of discriminatory failure to promote on the basis of race, in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(a), and the Minnesota Human
Rights Act (MHRA), Minn. Stat. 363A.03, subd. 42, 363A.08, subd. 2(c). MMLAs
Motion is granted.
1 On a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the evidence in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. Ludwig v. Anderson, 54 F.3d 465, 470 (8th Cir. 1995).
2
II. BACKGROUND1
MMLA is a non-profit corporation providing legal services to low-income individuals
and persons with disabilities. Haukedahl Aff. [Docket No. 44] 2. MMLA provides services in
Minneapolis through the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis (LASM), a non-profit corporation.
Id. LASM has offices in downtown Minneapolis (the downtown office), north Minneapolis
(the northside office), and south Minneapolis (the southside office). Id. MMLA is an
umbrella corporation and LASM is a member corporation of MMLA. Haukedahl Dep.
(Mohrman Decl. [Docket No. 47] Ex. 8; 2d McGrane Aff. [Docket No. 54] Ex. C) at 13-14.
Individuals who work in LASMs offices are employees of MMLA rather than employees of
LASM. Id. at 14.
Since November 1985, MMLA has employed Urich as a legal secretary at LASM. Urich
Dep. (1st McGrane Aff. [Docket No. 43] Ex. A; 2d McGrane Aff. Ex. B) at 13-14. Urichs
duties as a legal secretary include: typing legal documents and correspondence for attorneys;
maintaining client files; calling clients to set up appointments; contacting court staff; providing
back-up support for the receptionist, including answering phones and mail; and arranging for
couriers to deliver documents. Id. at 17-18. From 1985 to 1995, Urich worked in LASMs
downtown office. Id. at 14. In 1995, Urich transferred to LASMs southside office. Id. Urich is
an American Indian woman.
From 1985 until late 1987, Daniels was a legal secretary in LASMs downtown office.
Daniels Dep. (1st McGrane Aff. Ex. B) Ex. 1 at P105. From October 1987 through 1991,
3
Daniels was the supervising secretary for the downtown office. Id. Ex. 1 at P103. Daniels
supervised eleven secretaries and a volunteer. Id. Ex. 1 at P103. In 1992, MMLA restructured
LASMs downtown office and eliminated Daniels supervising secretary position. Id. Ex. 1 at
P104. Daniels resumed working as a legal secretary in the downtown office. Id. Ex. 1 at P104.
In October 1998, Daniels began working as the northside offices network administrator. Id. Ex.
1 at P101-P102. In 2003, Daniels transferred to a legal secretary position in the southside office.
Id. Ex. 1 at P101. Daniels is an African-American woman.
MMLA has restructured the staffing at LASM in recent years. In 2002, MMLA created a
new position of deputy director to manage the day-to-day operations of all three LASM offices.
Haukedahl Dep. Ex. 100 at 2. Previously, the managing attorney in each LASM office was
responsible for the day-to-day operations of the office. Id. Ex. 100 at 2. MMLA created the
deputy director position to make the offices more cohesive. Id. Ex. 100 at 2. Catharine
Haukedahl (Haukedahl) was hired to work as LASMs deputy director. Id. at 5, 8-9.
In March 2003, MMLA implemented Haukedahls recommendation that MMLA
reorganize LASM by substantive units rather than by location. Id. at 11-12. Prior to the
reorganization, legal secretaries and other support staff in the southside and northside offices
reported to the managing attorneys of those offices, and the managing attorneys reported to
Haukedahl. Id. at 12-13. Support staff in the downtown office reported to Lisa Cohen
(Cohen), who was LASMs director of administration. Id. at 12-13. After the reorganization,
Cohen supervised the legal secretaries and other support staff in all three LASM offices.
Id. at 13. Later in 2003, Cohen transferred direct supervisory authority over secretaries in the
downtown office to Barbara OConnell (OConnell), who was the office manager in the
4
downtown office. Cohen Dep. (Mohrman Decl. Ex. 19) at 8-9; Haukedahl Dep. at 105-06. In
her reconstituted office manager position, OConnell was responsible for evaluating the
performance of support staff in the downtown office. Cohen Dep. at 8-9.
In 2004, a peer review team of experienced legal services administrators evaluated
LASMs organization structure. Haukedahl Dep. at 15-16. In December 2004, the peer review
team issued a report concluding that LASMs director of administration had too many
responsibilities. Id. at 16. MMLAs management committee discussed the report and decided
that the director of administration should no longer supervise support staff in the southside
office. Id. at 16-17. Haukedahl agreed to supervise the southside support staff until MMLAs
management determined where to assign those duties. Id. at 19-20. In a January 13, 2005,
email, Haukedahl and Cohen notified the southside office of the changes. Id. Ex. 101. The
email stated in part that:
[T]he Management Committee has decided that the supervision of [southside] support
staff should be transferred from Lisa [Cohen] to Cathy [Haukedahl] for a period of time,
perhaps up to one year. During that time, we will work to develop the [southside] office
manager position into a position that supervises and evaluates the SS support staff on a
day-to-day basis, similar to the supervision of [downtown] support staff by Barb
OConnell. This does not necessarily mean that the office manager position will be held
by one person; it could continue to be a shared position. The details of how the transition
of the office manager position will occur will not be decided until there is opportunity for
input by affected staff. We expect the transition from Lisa to Cathy to start on February
1. . . .
Id. Ex. 101.
Christie Lord (Lord) was the long-time office manager of the southside office. In
1984, Lord began working at LASM as a legal secretary. Lord Dep. (1st McGrane Aff. Ex. E;
Mohrman Decl. Exs. 2-3) at 35. In August 1987, Lord was elevated to the position of southside
office manager. Haukedahl Aff. 5, Ex. 2. As of January 2005, Lord worked a seventy percent
5
schedule. Lord Dep. at 108.
When Lord was out of the office, Virginia Carr (Carr), the southside offices network
administrator, performed Lords duties as office manager. Carr Dep. (1st McGrane Aff. Ex. F;
Mohrman Decl. Ex. 1) at 34-39. Carr began working in the southside office in 1986 or 1987. Id.
at 7. Carr was elevated to the southside network administrator position in October 1994.
Haukedahl Aff. Ex. 1. Carr worked an eighty percent schedule. Carr Dep. at 23. Carr testified
that on a normal day she spent eighty percent of her time performing network administrator
functions and twenty percent on legal secretary work. Id. at 29.
The job duties of the southside office manager position were: delegating work among the
legal secretaries; ensuring redistribution of work among the legal secretaries when there was
overflow work or when a secretary was out of the office; coordinating legal secretaries work
and vacation schedules to ensure adequate staffing; consulting management regarding hiring and
training new support staff; providing feedback to management regarding the performance of the
legal secretaries; ensuring adequate information exchange between the legal secretaries and the
rest of the office; ensuring that legal secretaries had adequate training; maintaining the legal
library; bookkeeping for petty cash and client trust accounts; ordering supplies for the office;
calling appropriate personnel to maintain office equipment; acting as a liaison with building
management for building repairs and related issues; ordering business cards and arranging for
messenger service; ensuring that filing and storage systems are maintained; performing back-up
secretarial duties when necessary; and providing on-site technical support if other personnel
6
were not available. Lord Dep. at 20-36; Carr Dep. at 38. As of January 2005, neither Lord nor
Carr formally evaluated support staff. Lord Dep. at 23-24; Carr Dep. at 69.
On January 20, 2005, Cohen and Haukedahl met with Lord and Carr to discuss options
for supervising the southside offices support staff. Haukedahl Dep. at 23-27. One option was
for Haukedahl to continue to supervise the support staff indefinitely. Id. at 26-27. Another
option was to reconstitute the office manager position to include supervising the southside
offices support staff. Id. at 27. Haukedahl asked Lord and Carr to think about whether they
would like to job-share the reconstituted office manager position. Id. at 52-53. Cohen and
Haukedahl also notified Lord and Carr that Carrs technical support duties would be centralized
in the downtown office. Carr Dep. at 109-110.
Immediately after the January 20, 2005, meeting with Lord and Carr, Haukedahl and
Cohen invited all southside support staff to a meeting to discuss possible changes. Haukedahl
Dep. at 23. Haukedahl, Cohen, Carr, Lord, Urich, Daniels, and Patricia Brown (Brown), who
was a legal secretary, attended the meeting. Id. at 24-25. Haukedahl and Cohen discussed the
options that management was considering for supervising the southside offices support staff. Id.
at 58. Haukedahl and Cohen stated that if management decided to reconstitute the office
manager position, Lord and Carr could job-share the position if they agreed to the additional
responsibilities. Id. at 58-59. Otherwise, Haukedahl would continue to supervise the support
staff until there was a vacancy within the LASM support staff. Id. at 59. When a vacancy
occurred, MMLA would post the vacant LASM southside office manager position and accept
applications. Id. Haukedahl testified she asked the attendees for feedback but she never heard
from Brown, Daniels, or Urich. Id. at 58-59.
2 Plaintiffs have submitted post-deposition declarations stating their recollections of the
January 20, 2005, meeting. Daniels Decl. [Docket No. 48]; Urich Decl. [Docket No. 49].
Plaintiffs declarations repeat the allegations in their Complaints. Compare Daniels Decl. and
Urich Decl. with Urichs Complaint [Docket No. 1] and Daniels Complaint [Docket No. 10].
The Court will not consider Plaintiffs declarations for the reasons discussed in Part III-B below.
7
Whether the possibility of any of the legal secretaries applying for the reconstituted
office manager position was discussed at the January 20, 2005, meeting is subject to varied
recollection. Urich testified that Haukedahl and Cohen announced at the January 20, 2005,
meeting that Lord and Carr had accepted the reconstituted office manager position. Urich Dep.
at 90. Brown testified that Cohen and Haukedahl told meeting attendees that others could apply
for the reconstituted office manager position. Brown Dep. (Mohrman Decl. Ex. 12) at 47.
Brown avers that Haukedahl subsequently asked her if she was interested in the position, to
which Brown responded absolutely not. Id. at 48. Brown also testified that she asked Urich if
she was interested in the position, and that Urich responded that she would not apply. Id. at 48-
49.2 Haukedahl testified that neither Urich nor Daniels said anything at the meeting, and she did
not recall whether Brown asked any questions. Haukedahl Dep. at 59-60.
In February 2005, Lord and Carr notified Haukedahl and Cohen that they would like to
job-share the reconstituted office manager position. Haukedahl Dep. Ex. 118. Carr and Lord
inquired whether the southside office manager position could be reclassified under MMLAs
payscale to reflect the additional responsibilities of the reconstituted position. Cohen Dep. at 9-
10. MMLA pays its employees based on their position and their years of service. Mohrman
Decl. Ex. 25. As of early 2005, Lord and Carr were both paid as office managers on MMLAs
salary chart. Haukedahl Aff. Exs. 1-2. Office managers are one level above legal secretaries on
MMLAs salary chart. Mohrman Decl. Ex. 25. The next level above office manager is
3 Plaintiffs filed two civil actions. The actions were subsequently consolidated into one
action. May 31, 2007, Order [Docket No. 9].
8
administrative assistant. Id. Ex. 25. After reviewing the duties of the reconstituted southside
office manager position, Haukedahl and Cohen prepared a February 18, 2005, memorandum
recommending that LASM executive director Jeremy Lane (Lane) reclassify the reconstituted
southside office manager position to the administrative assistant level. Haukedahl Dep. Ex. 118.
Lane approved reclassification of the southside office manager position. Id. at 18, 54.
In a March 7, 2005, email, Haukedahl notified the southside office that Lord and Carr
would job-share the reconstituted southside office manager position effective immediately. Id.
Ex. 120. Brown testified that Haukedahl convened a meeting to discuss Lord and Carrs new
duties. Brown Dep. at 56-58. Brown avers that Urich inquired whether Haukedahl thought
Urich was qualified for the reconstituted office manager position. Id. at 57-58. Brown testified
that Haukedahl responded that Urich was qualified, but Brown could not recall anything else
from the alleged exchange between Haukedahl and Urich. Id. at 58. Haukedahl testified that
neither Urich nor Daniels voiced any disagreement that Lord and Carr would fill the
reconstituted office manager position. Haukedahl Dep. at 139.
On November 21, 2005, Daniels and Urich filed charges of discrimination in the
Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR). Daniels Dep. Ex. 2; Urich Dep. Ex. 4. In
January 2007, the MDHR determined there was no probable cause to believe that MMLA had
engaged in an unfair discriminatory practice. Daniels Dep. Ex. 3. Plaintiffs timely initiated this
litigation on February 23, 2007.3 Plaintiffs asserted claims of discriminatory failure to promote
and a discriminatory salary cap in violation of Title VII and the MHRA. The parties have
9
stipulated to dismissal with prejudice of Plaintiffs discriminatory salary cap claims. Stipulation
[Docket No. 58].
III. DISCUSSION
A. Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) provides that summary judgment shall issue if the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving
party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). On a motion for
summary judgment, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party. Ludwig, 54 F.3d at 470. The nonmoving party may not rest on mere allegations or
denials, but must demonstrate on the record the existence of specific facts which create a genuine
issue for trial. Krenik v. County of Le Sueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995).
B. Plaintiffs Declarations
Plaintiffs have filed declarations in opposition to MMLAs Motion for Summary
Judgment. Daniels Declaration; Urich Declaration. These declarations essentially repeat the
allegations asserted in Plaintiffs Complaints. Specifically, Plaintiffs declarations assert that
during the January 20, 2005, meeting, Urich asked Haukedahl and Cohen whether they thought
the Plaintiffs were qualified and could apply for the reconstituted office manager position.
Daniels Decl. 24; Urich Decl. 21. Plaintiffs state that Haukedahl responded that Plaintiffs
were qualified but they could not apply because they were at the legal secretary level and not
10
the office manager level. Daniels Decl. 25; Urich Decl. 21-22. Plaintiffs allege that
Haukedahl and Cohen stated that if Lord and Carr did not accept the position, MMLA would
hire from the outside. Daniels Decl. 26; Urich Decl. 23. Plaintiffs also assert that Lord
stated that neither she nor Carr wanted the [reconstituted office manager] position but [MMLA]
forced them to accept it. Daniels Decl. 29; Urich Decl. 26.
MMLA argues the declarations should not be considered because they present factual
allegations and documentary evidence that were not disclosed during discovery. This Court
agrees. Federal courts have long recognized that deposition testimony is inherently more reliable
than affidavits or declarations because the deponent was either cross-examined by opposing
counsel, or at least available to opposing counsel for cross-examination. Perma Research &
Dev. Co. v. Singer Co., 410 F.2d 572, 578 (2d Cir. 1969). The purpose of taking depositions
during discovery is thwarted if a party can withhold testimony during a deposition and then
defeat summary judgment by offering the withheld testimony through an affidavit or a
declaration. Plaintiffs had the opportunity to testify regarding the facts relevant to their failureto-
promote claims, but have inexplicably failed to provide any deposition testimony of the facts
discussed in their declarations. Although post-discovery affidavits and declarations may be
4 Portions of Plaintiffs declarations are inconsistent with excerpts of their deposition
testimony that MMLA has provided. For example, Daniels and Urich assert that at the January
20, 2005, meeting, Urich asked Haukedahl and Cohen whether Urich and Daniels could apply
for the reconstituted office manager position. However, when asked if she told anyone in
January 2005 that she wanted the position, Urich testified she did not know a position was
available. Urich Dep. at 90. The Eighth Circuit has consistently held that a party cannot defeat
summary judgment by submitting an affidavit contradicting her own earlier deposition
testimony. Camfield Tires, Inc. v. Michelin Tire Corp., 719 F.2d 1361, 1365-66 (8th Cir. 1983).
11
useful to clarify ambiguous deposition answers and to present undisputed background facts, they
may not be used as a substitute for a partys deposition testimony. The Court will not consider
Plaintiffs declarations.4
C. Plaintiffs Failure-to-Promote Claims
1. Title VII
Title VII prohibits an employer from limit[ing], segregat[ing], or classify[ing] his
employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any
individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee,
because of such individuals race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. 42 U.S.C. 2000e-
2(a). A plaintiff asserting a Title VII employment discrimination claim can survive summary
judgment by presenting direct evidence or indirect evidence of discrimination. Direct evidence
of discrimination includes actions or remarks by the employer that reflect discriminatory
intent. Rodgers v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 417 F.3d 845, 859 n.9 (8th Cir. 2005).
If a plaintiff lacks direct evidence, the McDonnell Douglas framework applies. Kratzer
v. Rockwell Collins, Inc., 398 F.3d 1040, 1046 (8th Cir. 2005) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp.
v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973)). [T]he McDonnell Douglas framework exists to provide
discrimination plaintiffs a way to prove their case when they do not have explicit, inculpatory
5 Plaintiffs suggest that Robinson made the comment some time before August 30, 2004.
Pls. Mem. in Oppn to Mot. for Summ. J. [Docket No. 46] at 27-28.
12
evidence of discriminatory intent. Shannon v. Ford Motor Co., 72 F.3d 678, 682 (8th Cir.
1996) (quoting Hutson v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 63 F.3d 771, 776 (8th Cir. 1995)). To
establish a prima facie case of discrimination in a failure-to-promote case, a plaintiff must show
that: (1) she is a member of a protected group; (2) she was qualified and applied for a
promotion to an available position; (3) she was rejected; and (4) similarly situated employees,
not part of the protected group, were promoted instead. Gentry v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., 250
F.3d 646, 650 (8th Cir. 2001). If a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to
the employer to provide evidence that the plaintiff was rejected, or someone else was
preferred, for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason. Shannon, 72 F.3d at 682 (quoting Tex.
Dept of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 254 (1981)). If the employer satisfies its
burden, the plaintiff must establish the existence of facts that, if proven at trial, would permit a
jury to conclude that the employers proffered reason is a pretext for intentional discrimination.
Krenik, 47 F.3d at 958.
a. Direct Evidence
Plaintiffs argue the McDonnell Douglas framework need not be applied here because
there is direct evidence of MMLAs discriminatory intent. Plaintiffs rely on evidence that Galen
Robinson (Robinson), MMLAs litigation director, allegedly told Susan Wright, an African-
American attorney who worked at LASM from September 2003 to 2006, that MMLA had
difficulty recruiting African-American attorneys because of their low bar passage rates.5 Wright
Dep. (Mohrman Decl. Ex. 20) at 69-70. However, direct evidence of discrimination does not
13
include stray remarks in the workplace, statements by nondecisionmakers, or statements by
decisionmakers unrelated to the decisional process itself. Browning v. President Riverboat
Casino-Missouri, Inc., 139 F.3d 631, 635 (8th Cir. 1998) (quoting Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins,
490 U.S. 228, 277 (1989)). The record reflects that based on Haukedahl and Cohens
recommendation, Lane made the decision to reconstitute the office manager position and appoint
Lord and Carr. Haukedahl Dep. at 54. There is no evidence that Robinson was involved in the
decision. Therefore, Robinsons stray statement is not direct evidence of discrimination.
b. McDonnell Douglas Burden-Shifting Framework
Because Daniels and Urich are members of protected groups, the first prong of Plaintiffs
prima facie case is satisfied. The parties dispute the remaining prongs. MMLA argues the
second prongwhether Plaintiffs were qualified and applied for a promotion to an available
positionis not satisfied because: (1) Plaintiffs were not qualified for the reconstituted office
manager position; (2) Plaintiffs did not adequately express an interest in the position; and (3)
there was no available position because Lord and Carrs existing positions were merely
reconstituted. MMLA argues the third prongwhether Plaintiffs were rejected for the
positionis not satisfied because Plaintiffs never applied for the reconstituted office manager
position and therefore they were not rejected. Finally, MMLA argues Plaintiffs cannot meet the
fourth prongwhether similarly situated employees, not part of the protected group, were
promotedbecause Plaintiffs were not as qualified as Lord and Carr for the reconstituted office
manager position.
Although Plaintiffs may not have established a prima facie case of discrimination, the
Court will assume arguendo that Plaintiffs have made a prima facie showing. Adelman-Reyes v.
14
St. Xavier Univ., 500 F.3d 662, 665 (7th Cir. 2007) (noting that courts may skip the analysis of
a plaintiff's prima facie case and proceed directly to the evaluation of pretext). MMLA asserts
that it did not consider other candidates for the reconstituted office manager position because
Lord and Carr were already performing the vast majority of the duties of the reconstituted
position. Plaintiffs do not dispute that MMLA has asserted a legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reason. Therefore, the Court proceeds to analyze pretext.
[The pretext] inquiry is limited to whether the employer gave an honest explanation of
its behavior, not whether its action was wise, fair or correct. McKay v. U.S. Dept of Transp.,
340 F.3d 695, 700 (8th Cir. 2003) (quotation omitted). There are at least two ways a plaintiff
can establish a question of fact regarding pretext. Wallace v. DTG Operations, Inc., 442 F.3d
1112, 1120 (8th Cir. 2006). First, a plaintiff can indirectly show pretext with evidence that the
employers explanation is unworthy of credence because it has no basis in fact. Id.
(quoting Burdine, 450 U.S. at 256, and Smith v. Allen Health Sys., Inc., 302 F.3d 827, 834 (8th
Cir. 2002)). Second, a plaintiff can directly show pretext by persuading the court that a
[prohibited] reason more likely motivated the employer. Id. (insertion in original) (quoting
Burdine, 450 U.S. at 256).
Lord and Carr had previously performed almost all of the duties of the reconstituted
office manager position. Lord Dep. at 20-36; Carr Dep. at 66-78. The only duties they had not
performed were formally evaluating the secretaries, and holding regular secretary meetings.
Lord Dep. at 23, 27; Carr Dep. at 69, 71-72. The testimony of the Plaintiffs corroborates Lord
and Carrs testimony. Urich testified that before March 2005, Lord was like an administrative
assistant, and that Lord really didnt do legal secretary work. Urich Dep. at 92, 95-96. Urich
15
stated that the only change she noticed after the office manager position was reconstituted was
that Lord [wr]ote up evaluations on me. Urich Dep. at 93-94. Daniels testified that Lord and
Carr continued on as they were. Daniels Dep. at 84. The only changes that Daniels noticed
were that Carr no longer did technical support work; Carr assumed responsibility for ensuring
that secretaries had adequate computer training; Lord and Carr assumed responsibility for
performance reviews; and Carr held weekly secretary meetings. Daniels Dep. at 84-86. Despite
the evidence that Lord and Carr previously performed most of the duties of the reconstituted
office manager position, Plaintiffs argue that the written description of the position shows that
Lords job duties changed by fifty percent and Carrs job duties changed by sixty-five percent.
Pls. Mem. in Oppn to Def.s Mot. for Summ. J. at 24. However, Plaintiffs calculations ignore
the substantial evidence that Lord and Carr had performed almost all of the duties of the
reconstituted position. Plaintiffs have failed to show that MMLAs proffered explanation for
giving Lord and Carr the reconstituted office manager position has no basis in fact.
Plaintiffs also argue they were more qualified than Lord and Carr. Plaintiffs contend
their superior qualifications for the reconstituted office manager position demonstrate that
MMLA was more likely motivated by discrimination. However, federal courts cannot sit as
super-personnel departments reviewing the wisdom or fairness of the business judgments made
by employers, except to the extent that those judgments involve intentional discrimination.
Kiel v. Select Artificials, Inc., 169 F.3d 1131, 1136 (8th Cir.1999) (quotation omitted). While
courts do not review the wisdom or fairness of employers business judgments . . . [courts] may
consider whether an employer hired or promoted an individual who was substantially less
qualified than an unsuccessful candidate in the protected class. Peterson v. Scott County, 406
16
F.3d 515, 523 (8th Cir. 2005). The record reflects that MMLA made a business judgment to
offer the reconstituted office manager position to Lord and Carr, who were already performing
most of the duties of the reconstituted position. Lord and Carr were at the office manager level,
a higher salary level than Plaintiffs legal secretary level. Plaintiffs do not offer any evidence
suggesting that their lower salary level relative to Lord and Carr prior to the reconstitution of the
office manager position was the result of discrimination. Although Plaintiffs disagree with
MMLAs decision to offer the reconstituted office manager position to Lord and Carr, this Court
does not review the wisdom or fairness of giving the position to two employees who outranked
Plaintiffs and who were already performing most of the duties of the position. See Hudson v.
Chicago Transit Auth., 375 F.3d 552, 561 (7th Cir. 2004) (concluding that plaintiff was not
similarly situated to promoted employees because the promoted employees had a higher rank at
the time they were promoted). Therefore, the Court grants MMLAs motion for summary
judgment on Plaintiffs Title VII failure-to-promote claims.
2. MHRA
The MHRA prohibits employers from discriminat[ing] against a person with respect to
hiring, tenure, compensation, terms, upgrading, conditions, facilities, or privileges of
employment because of race. Minn. Stat. 363A.08, subd. 2(c). The same standard is used to
analyze both Title VII and MHRA claims, and therefore, the analysis of Plaintiffs Title VII
claims applies to their MHRA claims. See Bergstrom-Ek v. Best Oil Co., 153 F.3d 851, 857 (8th
Cir. 1998). Accordingly, the Court grants MMLAs motion for summary judgment on Plaintiffs
MHRA failure-to-promote claim.
17
IV. CONCLUSION
Based upon the foregoing, and all the files, records, and proceedings herein, IT IS
HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. Pursuant to the parties Stipulation [Docket No. 58], Plaintiffs Mescal N. Urich
and D. Lynne Daniels claims of a discriminatory salary cap are DISMISSED
WITH PREJUDICE; and
2. Defendant Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistances Motion for Summary Judgment
[Docket No. 33] on Plaintiffs remaining claims is GRANTED.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.
BY THE COURT:
s/Ann D. Montgomery
ANN D. MONTGOMERY
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: July 22, 2008.
 

 
 
 

  What day were you injured?

  / /


  What caused your injuries?
Traffic/Bicycle Accident
Work-Related Injury
Wrongful Death
Dog Bite
Slip and Fall
Other:


  How have your injuries affected

  your life?

 


  What kinds of medical care
  professionals have you seen?

 


  What has your treatment cost?

 

  Is Insurance Involved?
My insurance may cover
        this.

Someone else's insurance
        may cover this.

I already filed a claim.
I rejected a settlement
        offer.

I accepted a settlement
        offer.

  Were there any witnesses?
Bystanders Witnessed This.
Police Responded and Filed
        a Police Report

Police Responded but Did
        Not File a Police Report


 

 

          By visiting this page or clicking the
  "submit" button above, you agree
  that you have read and accept this   "disclaimer".
 
Copyright © Michael E. Douglas, Attorney at Law, Saint Paul MN. All Rights Reserved.
Minnesota Law Firm representing Personal Injury, Car / Auto Accident, Workers Compensation, Medical Malpractice, Social Security Disability claims.
Dedicated to Injured Workers, Victims of Negligence, Car Accidents, Victims of Fraud, and those in need of legal assistance.