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Stewart v. City of Minneapolis

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 21, 2017

Laurence Stewart, Plaintiff,
v.
City of Minneapolis, Defendant.

          Brian T. Rochel, Esq., Douglas L. Micko, Esq. and Teske, Micko, Katz, Kitzer & Rochel, PLLP, counsel for plaintiff.

          Ivan M. Ludmer, Esq., Gregory P. Sautter, Esq., counsel for defendant.

          ORDER

          David S. Doty, Judge

         This matter is before the court upon the motion for judgment on the pleadings by defendant City of Minneapolis. Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court denies the motion for judgment on the pleadings, but orders plaintiff Laurence Stewart to join the International Union of Operating Engineers Local #49 (Union) as a defendant in this action.

         BACKGROUND

         This employment action arises out of the City’s termination of Stewart’s employment. The City hired Stewart in 2000 as a construction and maintenance laborer. Compl. ¶ 22. Soon thereafter, he became an automotive mechanic. Id. ¶ 23. In October 2009, Stewart was injured on the job. Id. ¶ 24. He was cleared by his doctor to return to work the following year. Id.

         The City has a three-phase return-to-work policy for employees returning from injuries (Policy), which is part of its collective bargaining agreement with the Union (CBA). Id. ¶ 6; Ludmer Decl. Ex. 1, Attachment C. Under the first phase of the Policy, once an employee is cleared by a doctor to return to work, the City has thirty days in which to place him into a temporary or “light duty” position that conforms to his physical restrictions. Compl. ¶ 8. After thirty days, the employee moves into the second phase during which he continues with “light duty” as appropriate. Id. ¶ 9. If the employee’s injuries are ultimately deemed permanent or the employee reaches “maximum medical improvement” as defined by the workers’ compensation system, the employee transitions to the third phase of the Policy, which is referred to as the “Job Bank Program.” Id. ¶¶ 11, 12. The CBA established the general provisions of the Job Bank Program. Ludmer Decl. Ex. 1, Attachment C, at 2-5. Employees are permitted to participate in the Job Bank Program for 120 days during which time they can apply, with coaching and placement assistance, for open positions with the City. Id. at 2; Compl. ¶¶ 12, 14. If the employee has not found alternative employment with the City within the 120-day period, the City automatically terminates his employment. Compl. ¶ 16; Ludmer Decl. Ex. 1, Attachment C, at 5.

         Stewart returned to work under the first phase of the Policy on November 22, 2010. Compl. ¶ 25. Because his physical restrictions precluded him from working as a mechanic, he worked as an office support specialist. Id. ¶¶ 24-25. On May 6, 2013, the City determined that Stewart was permanently disabled and thus eligible to participate in the Job Bank Program. Id. ¶ 28. While in the Job Bank Program, Stewart applied and interviewed for several positions, but he did not receive a job offer during the 120-day period. Id. ¶ 30. On October 9, 2013, he was terminated consistent with the Policy. Id. ¶ 31.

         On January 4, 2017, Stewart filed this putative class action under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in Hennepin County.[1] Stewart specifically alleges that the Policy violates the MHRA and ADA by precluding the City from engaging in an “interactive process to assess possible reasonable accommodations” or providing “any reasonable accommodations” and requiring it to automatically terminate employees after 120 days “without any inquiry or assessment of accommodating an employee’s disability.” Id. ¶ 45; see also id. ¶ 55. Stewart seeks damages as well as injunctive relief enjoining the City from “continuing its Return to Work Policy and/or directing [the City] to amend its Policy to be in compliance with state and federal laws.” Compl. at 10. The City timely removed to this court and now moves for judgment on the pleadings for Stewart’s failure to join the Union as a required party.

         DISCUSSION

         The City argues that the Union is a required party pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(a)(1) and that this case should be dismissed if Stewart persists in his refusal to join the Union. The court agrees that the Union is a required party to this action, but disagrees that dismissal is an appropriate remedy at this time.[2]

         Joinder of any person subject to service of process whose presence will not destroy a court’s subject-matter jurisdiction is required if:

(A) in that person’s absence, the court cannot accord complete relief among existing parties; or
(B) that person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that disposing of the action in ...

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