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Burcar v. South Washington County School District 833

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

January 8, 2014

Keith M. Burcar, Plaintiff,
v.
South Washington County School District 833, Defendant.

Thomas E. Marshall, Esq. and Engelmeier & Umanah, P.A., counsel for plaintiff.

John P. Edison, Esq., Michael J. Waldspurger, Esq. and Rupp, Anderson, Squires & Waldspurger, P.A., counsel for defendant.

ORDER

DAVID S. DOTY, District Judge.

This matter is before the court upon the motion for summary judgment by defendant South Washington County School District 833 (the District). Based on a review of the file, record and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants the motion.

BACKGROUND

This employment dispute arises out of the 2011 termination of plaintiff Keith M. Burcar by the District. At the time of his termination, Burcar was employed as an assistant principal at Woodbury Middle School (WMS). Lopez Aff. ¶ 2. Burcar also supervised an after-school archery program. Compl. ¶ 10.

In August 2010, WMS Principal Karin Lopez ordered Burcar to stop supervising the archery program during his "duty days" when he was responsible for supervising detention and completing truancy forms. Ke. Burcar Dep. 97:8-98:7. Moreover, Lopez warned Burcar to promptly record his absences in WMS' electronic system after Lopez discovered that Burcar had failed to do so several times. Lopez Aff. ¶¶ 11-12. Lopez also instructed Burcar to issue truancy diversion letters in a timely fashion and to hold parent meetings. Id . ¶ 22. On several occasions, Burcar failed to do so. Id . ¶ 30. In October 2010, Lopez directed Burcar to assign and supervise detention sessions. Id . Ex. 11. Burcar failed to comply with those directions and left students in detention unsupervised. Lopez Aff. ¶ 32. On several occasions, Burcar failed to inform WMS Attendance Clerk Diana Perkins that students were suspended or assigned detention. Ke. Burcar Dep. 154:21-25. Further, in February 2011, Burcar released a student to an unauthorized adult in violation of WMS policy. Marshall Aff. Ex. A, at 12:5-13:14.

In February 2011, Lopez and Assistant Superintendent Keith Ryskoski began an investigation into Burcar's failure to comply with District policies and follow directions. Lopez Aff. ¶ 33. On February 1, Human Resources Director Denise Griffith and Ryskoski interviewed Burcar about several incidents relating to his failure to follow District policies. Griffith Aff. ¶ 11. On February 23, Lopez and Ryskoski met with Burcar to again discuss various concerns. Lopez Aff. ¶ 35. Thereafter, Lopez and Griffith continued the investigation. Griffith Aff. ¶ 33. The investigation revealed that Burcar continued to incorrectly record absences and had not fully discontinued involvement with the archery program. Lopez Aff. ¶¶ 38, 48-49. Lopez began preparing a disciplinary letter. Id . ¶ 51.

On February 26, 2011, Burcar provided a doctor's note to Lopez that read, "No work 2/23/11 through 3/25/11."[1] Id . Ex. 67. On March 1, 2011, Lopez left Burcar a voicemail that the note was insufficient to obtain approval for an extended leave of absence. Lopez Aff. ¶ 45. After receiving additional paperwork, the District retroactively approved the leave request and informed Burcar that his leave had been designated as Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. Griffith Aff. ¶ 31. Burcar later received extensions of this leave until April 25, 2011, and May 25, 2011. Id . ¶¶ 37-38.

On multiple occasions during his leave, Burcar entered WMS premises without authorization. Lopez Aff. ¶ 52. On May 5, Lopez sent Burcar a letter summarizing the February 23 meeting and raising additional concerns that had surfaced thereafter. Id . Ex. 77. Lopez also directed Burcar to schedule a meeting with her upon the conclusion of his FMLA leave on May 25, 2011. Id. at 00933. Burcar was unable to return at the end of his FMLA leave, but the District allowed him to use accumulated sick leave and vacation time to remain on leave. Griffith Aff. ¶ 43. On May 24, 2011, the District received a doctor's letter detailing Burcar's history of depression.[2] Id . Ex. 111.

On June 6, 2011, Lopez requested a written response from Burcar concerning his presence in the building during his leave and his ongoing failure to follow procedures for requesting and recording absences. Lopez Aff. Ex. 78. On June 7, Burcar's social worker informed the District that he had advised Burcar to enter school buildings during evenings and weekends as a treatment strategy. Griffith Aff. Ex. 112. On June 8, Burcar responded to Lopez through his attorney. Id . Ex. 113. Griffith concluded the investigation and determined with Superintendent Mark Porter that Burcar's conduct justified discharge. Griffith Aff. ¶ 48.

On June 9, 2011, the District placed Burcar on paid administrative leave. Id . ¶ 49. On June 14, Burcar and his doctor submitted a proposed four-week "return-to-work" schedule. Id . Ex. 115, at 01439. On June 17, 2011, after a school board meeting, the District issued a Notice of Proposed Discharge to Burcar. Id . Ex. 118. Burcar requested arbitration pursuant to the District's collective bargaining agreement. Id . Ex. 119. On December 6, 2011, arbitrator Richard John Miller upheld the discharge, finding that Burcar was insubordinate and had willfully neglected his duties. Id . Ex. 82, at 00056. Burcar did not challenge the decision and his termination was finalized on December 15, 2011. Id . Ex. 80.

On August 13, 2012, Burcar filed suit in Minnesota court, alleging (1) disability discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), (2) MHRA reprisal and (3) violations of the FMLA.[3 ...


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