United States District Court, D. Minnesota
T. Rochel, Esq., Douglas L. Micko, Esq. and Teske, Micko,
Katz, Kitzer & Rochel, PLLP, counsel for plaintiff.
M. Ludmer, Esq., Gregory P. Sautter, Esq., counsel for
S. Doty, Judge
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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
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.
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