United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Timothy N. Trainer, Plaintiff,
Continental Carbonic Products, Inc., Defendant.
Matthew J. Schapp, Esq. and Dougherty, Molenda, Solfest,
Hills and Bauer, P.A., counsel for plaintiff.
M. Toft, Esq. and Jackson Lewis P.C., counsel for defendant.
S. Doty, Judge United States District Court
matter is before the court upon the partial motion to dismiss
by defendant Continental Carbonic Products, Inc (CCPI). Based
on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and
for the following reasons, the court denies the motion.
discrimination dispute arises out of CCPI's decision to
fire plaintiff Timothy N. Trainer, a white male whose wife is
African-American and whose children are biracial. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 9-10. In August 2013, CCPI hired Trainer as a
full-time driver at its Burnsville, Minnesota location.
Id. ¶ 8. When Trainer's co-worker, Travis
Gilner, learned that Trainer's wife was African-American
and his children were biracial, Gilner allegedly began making
racially derogatory comments about them. See id.
¶¶ 13-14. Trainer alleges that Gilner used
offensive terms such as “nigger, ” “tar
babies, ” and “mud flaps.” Id.
¶ 14. Gilner also allegedly asked Trainer if he
“liked his coffee black like his wife or with cream
like his kids” and whether Trainer's “family
had fried chicken and watermelon five nights a week.”
Id. Trainer claims that Gilner also showed him
racist cartoons and told racist jokes. Id.
September 2014, Gilner became Trainer's direct
supervisor, and the racially derogatory comments about
Trainer's family allegedly continued. Id.
¶¶ 16-17. In April 2015, Trainer reported
Gilner's behavior to CCPI human resources, but he claims
that they did not return his calls for approximately a week
despite his repeated follow-up calls. Id.
¶¶ 20-22. Approximately three weeks after
Trainer's initial complaint to human resources, CCPI
terminated Gilner's employment because of the alleged
harassment. Id. ¶ 24. After Gilner's
termination, Trainer decided to file a complaint with the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and, in
October 2015, he requested from CCPI its investigation file
concerning Gilner's alleged harassment. Id.
¶ 26. Trainer claims CCPI denied his request.
Id. ¶ 27. Approximately three weeks later, CCPI
terminated Trainer allegedly because he wanted to file an
EEOC complaint against the company. Id. ¶¶
November 21, 2016, Trainer filed suit against CCPI in state
district court, and CCPI timely removed. See ECF No.
1. Trainer filed an amended suit on December 30, 2016,
asserting claims of hostile work environment under the
Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) and wrongful
termination. CCPI now moves to dismiss the hostile work
Standard of Review
order to survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594
(8th Cir. 2009) (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff [has pleaded] factual content that allows the court
to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl.
Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Although a
complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it
must raise a right of relief above the speculative level.
See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “[L]abels and
conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action” are not sufficient to state a claim.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and internal
quotation marks omitted).
Failure to State a Claim
of the substantial similarity between the MHRA and Title VII,
Minnesota courts “have frequently applied principles
which have evolved in the adjudication of claims under the
federal act ....” Anderson v. Hunter, Keith,
Marshall & Co., 417 N.W.2d 619, 623 (Minn. 1988);
see also Rothmeier v. Inv. Advisers, Inc., 85 F.3d
1328, 1338 (8th Cir. 1996) (“The Minnesota Supreme
Court has held time and again that MHRA claims are to be
construed in accordance with federal precedent.”).
hostile work environment claim is based on the actions of a
supervisor, a plaintiff must show: “(1) that [he]
belongs to a protected group; (2) [he] was subject to
unwelcome harassment; (3) a casual nexus exists between the
harassment and the plaintiff's protected group status;
and (4) the harassment affected a term, condition or
privilege of [his] employment.” Gordon v. Shafer
Contracting Co., Inc., 469 F.3d 1191, 1195-96 (8th Cir.
2006). When a hostile work environment claim is based on the
acts of a non-supervisor, a plaintiff “must show that
his employer knew or should ...