United States District Court, D. Minnesota
E. Schlesinger, Esq., and Matthew A. Frank, Esq., Nichols
Kaster, PLLP, counsel for Plaintiff.
Jessica M. Marsh, Esq., and Michael John Moberg, Esq.,
Jackson Lewis PC, counsel for Defendant Graves Hospitality
Brendan D. Cummins, Esq., Justin D. Cummins, Esq., Laura I.
Bernstein, Esq., and Robert D. Metcalf, Esq., counsel for
Defendant UNITE HERE Local No. 17.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DONOVAN W. FRANK United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on an Amended Motion for Judgment
on the Pleadings brought by Defendant UNITE HERE Local No. 17
(“Local 17”). (Doc. No. 34.) For the reasons
set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in
case involves allegations of employment discrimination.
Plaintiff, a black woman of Ethiopian descent, works as a
busser in Towns/American Grill, a restaurant owned and run by
Defendant Graves Hospitality Corporation
(“Graves”). (SAC ¶¶ 1,
4.)Local 17 is a union that represents
employees in the hotel and restaurant industry in the Twin
Cities area, including Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 2.)
The terms and conditions of Plaintiff's employment are
established, in part, by a collective bargaining agreement
(“CBA”). (Id. ¶¶ 10-12.)
2014, Graves opened a new restaurant (Rival House) downstairs
in the same building where Towns/American Grill is located.
(Id. ¶ 5.) Several employees at Towns/American
Grill were hired to work at Rival House. (Id. ¶
6.) Graves interviewed Plaintiff for a position at Rival
House, but she was not offered the job. (Id.
¶¶ 5-6.) According to Graves, Plaintiff applied for
a Server Assistant position, which requires verbal
interaction with patrons, and Graves maintains that Plaintiff
did not speak English well enough to perform the required
duties. Plaintiff alleges that among the employees hired to
work at Rival House, some were people outside of
Plaintiff's race and national origin. (Id.)
Plaintiff also alleges that soon after Rival House opened,
Towns/American stopped serving customers after breakfast,
which resulted in a reduction in Plaintiff's hours from
full-time to approximately 8 hours per week. (Id.
¶¶ 8-9.) Plaintiff asserts that she was qualified
to perform the duties of a Server Assistant and that
Graves' refusal to allow her to switch to Rival House was
the result of discrimination on the basis of race and
national origin. (Id. ¶ 15.)
also alleges that in July and August 2014, she sought
assistance from her union, Local 17, and specifically that
she complained to Local 17 about Graves' discriminatory
conduct and that she asked for help moving to Rival House.
(Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff alleges that Local 17
deprived her of her union-membership rights under the CBA and
otherwise discriminated against her on the basis of race and
national origin by failing to file a grievance and generally
failing to assist her in securing a job at Rival House.
17, however, contends that it responded to each of
Plaintiff's complaints and requests in the summer of
2014, and that in September 2014, Local 17 met with Plaintiff
to discuss work schedules and her interest in the Server
Assistant position at Rival House. (Doc. No. 33 (Second
Amended Answer (“SAA”)) ¶¶ 10, 11.)
Local 17 asserts that it spent significant time during the
fall and winter of 2014 helping Plaintiff obtain alternative
full-time employment, but that Plaintiff elected not to take
any of the available positions. Local 17 also asserts that on
September 11, 2015, it filed a grievance regarding Graves
denying Plaintiff a Server Assistant position within the
14-day deadline under the CBA after Plaintiff requested that
such a grievance be filed. (Id. ¶ 19, Exs.
G-I.) Local 17 further asserts that Plaintiff did not pursue
the grievance, and in particular, opted not to present the
grievance before the Local Grievance Committee. (Id.
¶ 19, Ex. N).
Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination against Graves
with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”), which was cross-filed with the
Minnesota Department of Human Rights (“MDHR”).
(SAC ¶ 29.) Both the EEOC and the MDHR issued Plaintiff
a right to sue on April 1, 2016, and June 24, 2016,
respectively. (Id.) As against Local 17, Plaintiff
filed charges of discrimination with the St. Paul Department
of Human Rights and Economic Security (“St. Paul
DHR”) and the EEOC. (Id. ¶ 28.) The St.
Paul DHR found probable cause to believe that Local 17
discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of race and
national origin and issued a right to sue on March 29, 2016.
(Id.; Doc. No. 43 ¶ 1, Ex. 6.) The EEOC adopted
the St. Paul DHR's findings and issued a right to sue on
May 17, 2016. (SAC ¶ 28, Ex. O.) The EEOC's
Dismissal and Notice of Rights stated that any lawsuit on
Plaintiff's federal claims “must be filed
WITHIN 90 DAYS of [her] receipt of this notice; or
[Plaintiff's] right to sue based on this charge will be
10, 2016, Plaintiff sued Graves and Local 17 (and a third
defendant) in Ramsey County Court. (Doc. No. 1, Ex. A.)
Plaintiff asserted claims for violations the MHRA and St.
Paul Human Rights Ordinance (“St. Paul HRO”)
(both claims under state and local law). (Doc. No. 1, Ex. 1.)
On June 8, 2016, Graves removed the case to this Court. (Doc.
No. 1.) Both defendants filed answers. (Doc. Nos. 3, 4.) On
July 19, 2016, the parties filed a stipulation to amend the
complaint to change the case caption, dismiss the third
defendant without prejudice, and add a claim for
discrimination against Graves. (Doc. No. 8.) Plaintiff filed
a First Amended Complaint on July 25, 2016. (Doc. No. 10.)
After a dispute about Plaintiff's intent to amend her
complaint to add federal claims of discrimination against
Local 17, on October 4, 2016, Plaintiff filed the SAC adding
federal discrimination claims against Local 17. (Doc. No.
32.) In the SAC, Plaintiff alleges the following: Count
I-Violation of the MHRA against Local 17; Count II-Violation
of the St. Paul HRO against Local 17; Count III-Violation of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against Local 17; Count
IV-Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against Local No. 17;
Count V- Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against Graves;
Count VI-Violation of the MHRA against Graves. (See
SAC.) Plaintiff had not filed Federal discrimination claims
against Local 17 in her prior complaints. Thus, the first
time federal claims were asserted against Local 17 was on
October 4, 2016.
No. 17 presently moves for judgment on the pleadings, arguing
that Plaintiff's claims against Local 17 were filed
outside the governing limitations period, and even if timely,
Plaintiff's claims ...