United States District Court, D. Minnesota
N. ERICKSEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Allina Health Clinics (“Allina”) terminated
Plaintiff Leah Findlator following an altercation between
Findlator and her colleague, Leah Baruch. ECF No. 4.
Findlator filed a complaint against Allina asserting three
claims arising from this termination: (1) race and national
origin discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964; (2) race and national origin
discrimination in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights
Act; and (3) intentional inflict of emotional distress.
now moves for summary judgment on all claims. Findlator
opposes the motion. The Court grants summary judgment.
is “a black woman from the United Kingdom.” ECF
Nos. 4 at 1; 26 at 17. She began working for Allina as a
Laboratory Technician in August of 2012. From 2012 until
December of 2016, Allina never disciplined Findlator and
generally gave her positive performance evaluations.
[after Findlator] started working for Allina, she began
having problems with another Laboratory Technician, Leah
Baruch, ” who is white. ECF No. 4. Findlator alleges
that Baruch was regularly disrespectful, that their
interactions were “often heated and aggravating,
” and that Baruch had a history of interpersonal
conflict with others. Id. Findlator raised this
issue with her supervisors on multiple occasions.
December 2, 2016, Findlator and Baruch were both working in
the lab when Baruch asked Findlator about the status of a
blood sample. The question triggered a heated exchange.
Baruch then exited the lab for a patient care area occupied
by both patients and Allina staff. Findlator followed Baruch
and they continued to argue in front of others. Baruch took
off her lab coat and threw it at Findlator. Baruch then
picked up the coat and threw it again. The coat never hit
Findlator. The two came face-to-face while arguing and
Findlator pushed Baruch. Other Allina employees then interceded
to separate the two and escort them to different areas of the
the next few days, human resources investigated the incident
and interviewed six employees as well as both Findlator and
Baruch. On December 6, 2016, human resources released reports
on the investigation.
report on Baruch found that, “in a moment of anger,
” she “threw [her] lab coat.” ECF No. 22-1
at 3. It described her conduct as “completely
inappropriate, ” “unprofessional, ” and
“unacceptable.” Id. It concluded that
she had violated Allina's Respectful Workplace policy and
its Commitment to Care. The report issued her a “final
written warning” and suspension. Id.
report on Findlator stated: “in a moment of anger, you
put both hands on your co-worker['s] chest and pushed her
backwards.” Id. at 2. The report explained
that “Allina Health has a zero tolerance for
violence.” Id. It continued: “when you
pushed your coworker that is considered an act of violence
and is simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Id. Indeed, Allina's Violence-Free Workplace
No individual may engage in any verbal or physical conduct
which causes or threatens to cause harm to persons or
property. This includes conduct which has the effect of
threatening others, regardless of the intent of the
Id. at 78. The policy warns: “If you violate
the Violence-Free Workplace policy, you will be subject to
corrective action.” Id.
report on Findlator ultimately concluded that she violated
the Respectful Workplace policy, the Commitment to Care
policy, and the Violence-Free Workplace policy. For her
actions, Allina terminated her employment. ECF No. 22-1 at 2.
her union, Findlator filed a grievance to challenge her
termination. “She argued that she was terminated
because of her race and national origin, ” as allegedly
“evidenced by the fact that she and Ms. Baruch violated
the Violence-Free Workplace Policy, and therefore, should
have received the same discipline.” ECF No. 21 at 6.
She also claimed that Baruch “accused her of being in a
gang.” Id. Following further review of the
incident, Allina determined that race and national origin did
not motivate the decision to terminate Findlator. ECF No.
27-8 at 32. To justify the different treatment of the two
employees, Allina reasoned: “Allina's position is
that the throwing of the lab coat across a desk in the
general direction of another employee is not the same level
of severity as putting your hands on someone's shoulders
and pushing them back.” Id. at 33. Allina
denied the grievance. Id.
union then pursued this matter in arbitration, the last step
of the contractual grievance procedure. ECF No. 27-11 at 3.
The arbitrator found that termination was unwarranted and
ordered Findlator's reinstatement. ECF No. 22-1 at
56-57. Findlator rejected Allina's subsequent offer of
reinstatement. ECF No. 21 at 7.
then filed this suit alleging discrimination and intentional
infliction of emotional distress. ECF No. 4.
Court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A factual dispute is material if its
resolution will affect the outcome of the suit. Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A
factual dispute is genuine “if the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Id.
Court will grant summary judgment when the nonmoving party
“fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322 (1986). “The mere existence of a scintilla of
evidence in support of the [the nonmoving party's]
position will be insufficient.” Anderson, 477
U.S. at 252. That said, in ...