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Cardoso v. Board of Regents of University of Minnesota

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 5, 2018

Andrelino Cardoso, Plaintiff,
v.
The Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota, Defendant.

          ORDER

          JOAN N. ERICKSEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota (“the University”) moves for summary judgment. Plaintiff Andrelino Cardoso opposes summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the University's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Cardoso is “an African-American of Portuguese origin.” Pl. Br. 8, ECF No. 58. On May 14, 2012, the University hired Cardoso as Director of Dining Services at the University of Minnesota Duluth (“UMD”) campus. On June 9, 2014, the University notified Cardoso that it decided against renewing his employment contract. Cardoso commenced this suit claiming that the University's failure to renew his contract constituted (1) age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”) and (2) race, color, and national origin discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Amend Compl., ECF No. 28. Cardoso has since abandoned his ADEA claim. Pl. Br. 1.

         The University insists that it declined to renew Cardoso's contract for three main reasons. First, Cardoso had a “strained relationship with Dining Services union employees.” Def. Br. 5, ECF No. 49. Second, Cardoso failed “to follow his superior's directives.” Id. at 4. Third, Cardoso had “substandard communication and management skills.” Id. at 12; Smyth Decl. Ex. C, ECF No. 52.

         1. Cardoso's relationship with the Teamsters.

         In the five years immediately preceding Cardoso's tenure as Director of Dining Services, the Minnesota Teamsters Public and Law Enforcement Employees Union 320 (“the Teamsters”) filed only one grievance on behalf of a Dining Services employee. Rossi Decl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 53. During Cardoso's roughly two-year tenure, UMD received seven grievances from the Teamsters on behalf of Dining Services employees. Cardoso Dep. 46:8-56:17, ECF No. 50-3.

         The University had warned Cardoso that certain actions he intended to take concerning union employees were likely to elicit grievances asserting violations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) between the University and the Teamsters. Rossi Decl. ¶¶ 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 19; Id. Ex. A. These warnings proved correct. Most of the seven grievances relate to Cardoso's alleged breach of the CBA. Id. The University eventually agreed to monetary settlements for these grievances. Id. ¶ 20.

         Cardoso knew that the University viewed his troubled relationship with the Teamsters as a shortcoming. Cardoso Dep. 25:12-28:18; 31:6-34:23; 37:1-39:22. His six month review and his two annual reviews all list this shortcoming. Herber Decl. Exs. E, F, G, ECF No. 50.

         2. Cardoso's failure to follow directives.

         In early 2014, Cardoso met with his immediate supervisor, Dr. Corbin Smyth, to discuss the possibility of changing UMD's method of purchasing goods for Dining Services. Cardoso Dep. 59; Smyth Dep. 8, ECF No. 50-8. At the time, UMD used a competitive bid process to purchase goods. Engelmeier Decl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 51. Cardoso hoped to instead adopt a primary vendor system. Id. ¶ 9.

         Purchasing systems impact two of the University's strategic goals: sustainability and positive community involvement. Smyth Decl. Ex. C, ECF No. 52; Erwin Dep. 14:5-16:4, ECF No. 50-4. As a result, Smyth instructed Cardoso to form a committee to analyze the merits of each system of purchasing goods. Smyth Dep. 8:21-9:3; Erwin Dep. 14:5-16:4.

         After this, Cardoso asked Claudia Engelmeier, who was then the head of Purchasing for Dining Services at UMD, to explore the process of moving to a primary vendor system. Engelmeier Decl. ¶ 8; Id. Ex. B. Cardoso later met one-on-one with the staff of the Dining Services Warehouse. Engelmeier Decl. ¶ 9. At these meetings, he told staff that UMD Dining Services was moving to a primary vendor system. Id. Cardoso then emailed staff to request that they maintain the confidentiality of the information he shared regarding the primary vendor system. Id. Exs. C, D. He also requested that they ask only him questions about the primary vendor system. Id.

         In June of 2014, Cardoso asked for Engelmeier's input on an email that he intended to send to the “Primary Vendor Committee.” Id. ¶ 10; Id. Ex. E. The email stated that the committee's “charge is to do the necessary work that will culminate in the UMD issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a Primary Vendor for its products.” Id. At this point, Engelmeier “became alarmed that this ...


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