of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
F. Hansen, Elizabeth E. Cadem, Burns & Hansen, P.A.,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent.
L. Segal, Minneapolis City Attorney, Timothy S. Skarda,
Michael B. Bloom, Andrea K. Naef, Assistant City Attorneys,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, for appellant.
L. Naughton, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for amici curiae League
of Minnesota Cities and Association of Minnesota Counties.
Small, Minnesota County Attorneys Association, Saint Paul,
Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney,
Beverly J. Wolfe, Assistant County Attorney, Martin D. Munic,
Senior Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for
amicus curiae Minnesota County Attorneys Association.
J. Ebert, Melinda M. Sanders, Julie L. Fisk, Quinlivan &
Hughes, P.A., Saint Cloud, Minnesota; and
Jessica L. Roe, Shannon Cooper, Roe Law Group, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Defense Lawyers
Stephen C. Fiebiger, Stephen C. Fiebiger Law Office, Chtd.,
Burnsville, Minnesota; and Frances E. Baillon, Baillon Thome
Jozwaik & Wanta, LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and
Rochel, Doug Micko, Teske, Micko, Kitzer & Rochel, PLLP,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Chapter
of the National Employment Lawyers Association.
parties were "voluntarily engaged in a dispute
resolution process involving a claim of unlawful
discrimination" under the Minnesota Human Rights Act,
Minn. Stat. §§ 363A.01-.44 (2016), that suspended
the statute of limitations for the employee's age
discrimination claim, Minn. Stat. § 363A.28, subd. 3(b).
GILDEA, Chief Justice.
question presented in this case is whether an employee's
complaint to his employer's human resources department
suspended the running of the statute of limitations for the
employee's age discrimination claim under the Minnesota
Human Rights Act (MHRA), Minn. Stat. §§ 363A.01-.44
(2016). The district court concluded that the employer's
investigation did not suspend the statute of limitations. The
court of appeals reversed, holding that the parties were
"voluntarily engaged in a dispute resolution process
involving a claim of unlawful discrimination" under the
MHRA that suspended the statute of limitations. Because we
likewise conclude that the parties' participation in the
employer's process suspended the statute of limitations,
Scott Peterson worked as a police officer for appellant
City of Minneapolis from 1987 to 2012. In October 2011, the
City transferred Peterson from his position with the Violent
Offender Task Force to another police unit. At the time of
the transfer, Peterson was 54 years old. Peterson argues that
he was transferred because of his age. In November 2011,
Peterson filed a complaint with the City's human
resources department under the City's Respect in the
Workplace Policy (Workplace Policy), claiming that the
transfer was because of age discrimination. The City's
human resources department investigated the claim. In January
2013, more than a year after Peterson's initial
complaint, the City concluded that the transfer was not the
result of age discrimination.
26, 2013, Peterson filed a claim with the Minnesota
Department of Human Rights, which he later withdrew.
See Minn. Stat. § 363A.28, subd. 3(a)
(authorizing a complainant to bring a complaint as a civil
action, as a charge with a local commission, or as a charge
with the Commissioner of the Department of Human Rights). And
on March 12, 2014, Peterson commenced this action against the
City of Minneapolis in Hennepin County District Court,
alleging that the City discriminated against him based on his
age in violation of the MHRA.
City moved for partial summary judgment, arguing that
Peterson's MHRA claim was not timely filed. The district
court granted the City's motion for partial summary
judgment, holding that Peterson's claim was not filed
within the one-year limitations period in Minn. Stat. §
363A.28, subd. 3.
court of appeals reversed. Peterson v. City of
Minneapolis, 878 N.W.2d 521, 522 (Minn.App. 2016). The
court of appeals concluded that the parties were engaged in a
"dispute resolution process" during the period of
time in which the City's human resources department was
investigating Peterson's claim, which suspended the
statute of limitations under Minn. Stat. § 363A.28,
subd. 3(b). 878 N.W.2d at 522-23. We granted the City's
petition for review.
asked to decide whether Peterson's claim was timely filed
under Minn. Stat. § 363A.28, subd. 3. Section 363A.28,
subdivision 3(a), states that a claim under the MHRA must be
"brought as a civil action . . . or filed in a charge
with the [Commissioner of the Department of Human Rights]
within one year after the occurrence of the [unlawful
discriminatory] practice." But the statute provides that
the limitations period is "suspended during the time a
potential charging party and respondent are voluntarily
engaged in a dispute resolution process involving a claim of
unlawful discrimination under this chapter, including
arbitration, conciliation, mediation or grievance procedures
. . . ." Id., subd. 3(b). The parties
agree that Peterson brought his claim more than 1 year after
the occurrence of the unlawful discriminatory practice, but
they disagree about whether his action was timely.
contends that his complaint to the City's human resources
department and the department's subsequent investigation
triggered Minn. Stat. § 363A.28, subd. 3(b), and
suspended the 1-year limitations period. Because such a
suspension would bring Peterson's claim within the 1-year
limitations period, he argues that his claim was not
time-barred under the statute. On the other hand, the City of
Minneapolis argues that Peterson's complaint and the
subsequent human resources investigation did not suspend the
limitations period. Accordingly, the City contends that
Peterson's suit was not timely filed.
parties' arguments require that we interpret the
suspension provision in section 363A.28, subdivision 3(b). We
review statutory interpretation issues de novo. Krueger
v. Zeman Constr. Co., 781 N.W.2d 858, 861 (Minn. 2010).
The "goal of all statutory interpretation is to
ascertain and effectuate the intention of the
legislature." Christianson v. Henke, 831 N.W.2d
532, 536 (Minn. 2013) (citations omitted) (internal quotation
marks omitted). When interpreting statutes, our first step is
to determine if the statute is ambiguous, meaning that the
statute is subject to more than one reasonable
interpretation. Id. at 536-37 (citations omitted).
If the statute is unambiguous, we enforce the language of the
statute and " '[do] not explore the spirit or
purpose of the law.' " Id. at 537 (quoting
Caldas v. Affordable Granite & Stone, Inc., 820
N.W.2d 826, 836 (Minn. 2012)).
parties dispute three different parts of the suspension
provision in section 363A.28, subdivision 3(b): whether they
were "voluntarily engaged" in a process, whether
that process was a "dispute resolution process, "
and whether the process "involv[ed] a claim of unlawful