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In re Appeal of the Selection Process for the Position of Electrician (Exam #000200)

February 03, 2004

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPEAL OF THE SELECTION PROCESS FOR THE POSITION OF ELECTRICIAN (EXAM #000200).


Minneapolis Civil Service Commission Exam #000200

Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Anderson, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

An order of the Minneapolis Civil Service Commission denying a request to reopen a civil service procedure must be reversed and a new hiring procedure conducted where (1) a municipality explicitly required and emphasized a specific educational requirement but then waived that requirement after applications were submitted and (2) there were inconsistencies in the method of point calculation of the applications.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: G. Barry Anderson, Judge

Reversed and remanded

OPINION

In 2002, relator, Keith Anderson, a temporary electrician for the City of Minneapolis, complained of alleged safety violations involving city vehicles. Shortly afterward, relator was terminated from his employment. After the termination, relator complained to the Minnesota Occupational, Safety, and Health Agency (MOSHA). Eight months after relator's employment was terminated, the city accepted applications for permanent electricians; one of the highlighted requirements was completion of a state-approved apprenticeship. Relator had completed a state-approved apprenticeship but was unsuccessful in applying for the position; one of the successful applicants had not completed a state-approved apprenticeship. Relator challenged the application procedure in proceedings before respondent, the Minneapolis Civil Service Commission, alleging that he was not hired as retaliation for his MOSHA complaint and that there were irregularities in the hiring process, including the waiver of the apprenticeship requirement. Respondent did not conduct an evidentiary hearing and concluded that either there were no irregularities or that any irregularities were irrelevant. We reverse.

FACTS

From January 1998 until February 2002, relator was employed by the City of Minneapolis (the city) as a temporary (i.e., non-civil-service) electrician. In January 2002, relator complained to his supervisors, including his general foreman, Tom Piersak, that the city truck provided to him was unsafe. Approximately one week after his complaint, relator's employment with the city was terminated. Relator claims that this was in retaliation for his complaint, although the official reason given was that he was released as part of a workforce reduction. Relator filed a complaint with MOSHA and his union, alleging retaliatory discharge because of his complaint.

From October 16, 2002, through November 1, 2002, the city accepted applications for electricians in the public works transportation department, the same department in which relator had served as a temporary employee. Relator submitted an application. The posting stated only one educational requirement: that the applicant must have completed "an apprenticeship program approved by the State Division of Apprenticeship," and the posting also required submission of proof of successful completion of the apprenticeship. The proof-of-completion requirement was underlined and starred. The posting also stated the applicant needed to possess, and submit proof of, a Class A Journeyman Electrician's License. The requirement of proof of licensure had two stars and was underlined.

Respondent's staff ranked relator twelfth out of twenty candidates. The top four candidates were interviewed. But one of those candidates--one of two ultimately employed--had not submitted proof of completion of an apprenticeship. Of the candidates ranked fifth through eleventh, only numbers five, seven, and nine had submitted proof of completion of a state-approved apprenticeship. Relator had submitted proof of completion a state-approved apprenticeship.

Relator also challenged the interview process, alleging that (1) one of the successful candidates did not meet the minimum requirements; (2) Tom Piersak, one of those conducting the interviews, had called one of the successful candidates and told him what to say at the interview; and (3) relator had been denied the job because of his safety complaint while a temporary worker. Relator submitted affidavits and notarized letters to respondent supporting his claims. The human resources department investigated and submitted a report stating: (1) Piersak called all the interviewees but only arranged meeting times with them; (2) work experience could substitute for the apprenticeship requirement, conceding that one of the interviewees had not completed an approved apprenticeship; and (3) relator's application was fairly reviewed, and no one who evaluated his application had knowledge of his MOSHA complaint.

Respondent conducted two hearings on relator's challenges but refused to conduct an evidentiary hearing. At the first hearing, respondent requested that relator submit an affidavit and that the human resources department submit "some written materials in response." At the second hearing, respondent heard arguments and considered the previously requested written material but did not hear testimony or receive additional evidence.

Without any further hearings, respondent concluded that (1) alternative methods to fulfill the educational requirement should have been stated, but this failure did not prejudice relator, (2) respondent did not have jurisdiction to "review the process used by the [public works transportation] department in its internal interviews," and (3) no one reviewing relator's application knew of the MOSHA complaint, and the grading of the applications was fair. Relator, by writ of certiorari, now challenges these conclusions.

ISSUES

I. Does relator have standing?

II. Did the Minneapolis Civil Service Commission err in finding it did not have jurisdiction to review the interview process used following certification of a list of interviewees?

III. Is the Minneapolis Civil Service Commission's finding that no one grading relator's application knew of his MOSHA complaint and that his application was graded fairly ...


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