United States District Court, D. Minnesota
H. Ahlberg, Esq. and Ahlberg Law, PLLC, counsel for
J. Beck, Esq. and Ford & Harrison LLP, counsel for
S. Doty, Judge United States District Court
matter is before the court upon the motion for summary
judgment by defendant Permasteelisa North America Corp
(PNAC). Based on a review of the file, record, and
proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court
grants the motion.
employment dispute arises out of PNAC's decision to fire
plaintiff Erin O'Brien. PNAC employed O'Brien as a
Document Controller at its Mendota Heights location from
March through October 2015. O'Brien's direct
supervisor was Mileah Mott, whose supervisor was department
director Derick Koprek. Koprek, with Mott present, gave
O'Brien standard performance reviews on April 17 and May
26. Koprek Aff. ¶ 3. During those reviews, Koprek and
Mott informed O'Brien that she needed to improve the
accuracy of her work, increase her confidence, and spend less
time on her phone. Id.; id. Ex. A, at 1, 3,
August, Koprek continued to have concerns with the quality of
O'Brien's work, which he discussed with human
resources representative, Amelia Dube. Id. ¶ 4.
Dube recommended that O'Brien participate in a
performance improvement plan (PIP) and forwarded a PIP
document to Koprek. Id. ¶¶ 4-5. The PIP
informed O'Brien that she must improve her attention to
detail, reliability, and work ethic and that her failure to
do so could lead to termination. See Kyle Aff. Ex.
A. On September 19, O'Brien signed the PIP. Id.;
see Koprek Aff. ¶ 5.
subsequently told Cara Peterson, another manager at the
Mendota Heights office, that she was uncomfortable with the
plan because she thought it was too vague. Kyle Aff. ¶
5; see id. Ex. B. Peterson informed Emily Kyle, a
human resources supervisor, about O'Brien's concerns
and that O'Brien had other complaints that needed to be
addressed. Id. ¶ 5; see id. Ex. B.
Following her conversation with Peterson, on September 22,
Kyle had a conference call with Koprek, Dube and O'Brien
to address O'Brien's concerns. Kyle Aff. ¶ 6. At
the meeting, O'Brien complained about Mott's behavior
toward her, and Kyle instructed O'Brien to put her
complaints in writing. Id.
September 23, O'Brien emailed her complaints to Kyle.
Id. ¶ 7; see id. Ex. C. Among other
things, O'Brien complained that Mott had slammed her
fists on her desk, cursed at her, and called her and other
co-workers “retards.” Id. Ex. C. Kyle
and Dube investigated O'Brien's complaints, and Mott
admitted to using profanity and slamming her fists on
O'Brien's desk but denied using the word
“retarded.” Id. Ex. F. Kyle and Dube
gave Mott a written warning and informed O'Brien about
the results of the investigation. Id. Exs. G, H.
September 25, in an attempt to address O'Brien's
concerns about the first PIP, human resources sent an amended
PIP to Koprek. Kyle Aff. ¶ 8; see id. Ex. D.
Koprek met with O'Brien to go over the new PIP, but
O'Brien refused to sign it. Koprek Aff. ¶ 6. She was
still expected to improve her performance, however. Kyle Aff.
October 9, Koprek and Dube met with O'Brien to discuss
her progress under the PIP and noted several areas where they
believed O'Brien's performance continued to be
deficient. Koprek Aff. ¶ 7; see id. Ex. A. at
8. The next PIP progress meeting was scheduled for October
23. Koprek Dep. 15:1-5. By October 20, however, Koprek and
Jason Serbousek, the design department manager, believed that
O'Brien's attitude had worsened and that she was not
meeting the goals of the PIP. Kyle Aff. ¶ 11. As a
result, on October 20, Dube, Kyle, Koprek, and Serbousek
scheduled a meeting with O'Brien at the end of the day
without advance notice. O'Brien Dep. at 141:14-25; Koprek
Dep. at 19:18-20:6. At the meeting, they attempted to discuss
the PIP with O'Brien, but she left abruptly, apparently
because she was uncomfortable with the impromptu nature of
the meeting. O'Brien Dep. at 142:17-143:4; Koprek Dep. at
20:18-21. After the meeting, Koprek, Kyle, and Serbousek
concluded that it did not make sense to continue to pursue
the PIP. Koprek Aff. ¶ 9. Kyle then consulted with David
Halpert, director of human resources for North America, and
they decided to fire O'Brien. Id. ¶¶
9-10; Kyle Aff. ¶¶ 12-13.
March 8, 2016, O'Brien filed suit against PNAC in state
court asserting claims of discrimination under the MHRA and
promissory estoppel based on PNAC's anti-harassment
policy, and PNAC timely removed. PNAC now moves for summary