United States District Court, D. Minnesota
G. Villaume and Jeffrey D. Schiek, Villaume & Schiek,
P.A., Counsel for Plaintiff.
Goering and Erin E. Benson, Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney,
P.A., Counsel for Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. DAVIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
matter is before the Court on Defendant Pine County's
Motion for Summary Judgment.
worked for Defendant Pine County (the “County”)
for over 24 years. (Comp. ¶ 4.) In 2003, the County
Board appointed her the County Recorder. (Id.) She
remained in that position until the County Recorder position
was eliminated in December 2016. (Id.) At the time
her employment was terminated, Plaintiff was over the age of
2016, Plaintiff requested leave under the Family Medical
Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et.
seq., in order to take her minor child to the Fraser Academy
for treatment for Autism. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff
planned to be absent one day per week for this purpose.
Plaintiff's FMLA request was approved by Kelly Schroeder,
Plaintiff's immediate supervisor, on July 29, 2016.
(Schiek Aff. Ex. D.)
County asserts that during the 2016 budget process, it faced
a budget shortfall for 2017. (Goering Aff., Ex. 2 (Minke Dep.
at 32); Ex. 9; Ex. 10.) The County's Administrator, David
Minke, testified that the shortfall existed despite a 6.5%
levy increase. (Id. Ex. 2 (Minke Dep. at 26).) The
County requested a $100, 000 reserve in the General Fund for
the 2017 budget for unexpected expenses and cash flow.
(Id. Ex. 3 (Ludwig Dep. at 20); Ex. 2 (Minke Dep. at
24).) While working on the 2017 budget, it was discovered in
about September/October 2016 that the County would face a
$500, 000 deficit. (Id. Ex. 2 (Minke Dep. at 32).)
Minke testified that to eliminate this deficit, the Board had
to create a combination of spending cuts and revenue
increases. (Id.) By November 2016, the Board came
close to its target, with a General Fund balance of $94, 205.
(Id. Ex. 11, Ex. 2 (Minke Dep. at 32).) Later that
month, Minke received information that health insurance
expenses for the Sheriff's deputies were higher than
anticipated. (Id. Ex. 12, Ex. 2 (Minke Dep. at
31-32).) As a result, the County's reserve was almost
completely eliminated. (Id. Ex. 12.)
result, Minke requested the department heads to find
additional cuts. Minke looked to find $100, 000 through staff
cuts. (Id. Ex. 2 (Minke Dep. at 33).) He was also
looking to make reductions that would not impact service to
the public. (Id. Ex. 2 (Minke Dep. at 50).) The
County had to make its budget decisions by December 8, 2016;
the date its statutorily mandated Truth in Taxation meeting
was scheduled - a date which could not be changed.
(Id. Ex. 2 (Minke Dep. at 34) and Minn. Stat. §
275.065, subdiv. 3(c).)
discussed with Minke the option of eliminating the Recorder
position held by Plaintiff. (Id. Ex. 2 (Minke Dep.
at 33).) Schroeder then presented the potential savings
associated with eliminating the Recorder position at the
County's Personnel Committee meeting held on November 30,
2016. (Id. Ex. 2 (Minke Dep. at 340); Ex. 13.) Minke
approved the proposal, stating the duties of the Recorder
could be assigned to another worker and not decrease services
to the public. (Id. Ex. 2 (Minke Dep. at 52).)
Schroeder did not propose that other positions be eliminated.
(Id. Ex. 4 (Schroeder Dep. at 40).)
County's Personnel Committee is made of up two County
Commissioners, Chafee and Ludwig - who make recommendations
to the entire Board. (Id. Ex. 4 (Schroeder Dep. at
55).) The Personnel Committee agreed with the recommendation
to eliminate the Recorder position and the Board ultimately
approved the elimination of the position at its December 7,
2016 meeting. (Id. Ex. 14; Ex. 4 (Schroeder Dep. at
60).) Eliminating the position resulted in a total savings of
approximately $90, 000, inclusive of her $63, 000 salary,
health insurance, other benefits, FICA and a 7.5% employer
contribution to public pension contributions. (Id.
Ex. 2 (Minke Dep. at 40-42).)
was notified on December 7, 2016 by Schroeder and the
County's Human Resources Manager, Connie Mikrot, that her
job had been eliminated effective December 14, 2016.
(Id. Ex. 1 (Plaintiff Dep. at 68); Ex. 4 (Schroeder
Dep. at 75); Ex. 15.) The County continued to pay Plaintiff
her regular pay through December 30, 2016. (Id. Ex.
1 (Plaintiff Dep. at 68); Ex. 15.) The County did not hire
anyone to replace Plaintiff; instead her supervisor, Kelly
Schroeder, absorbed all of Plaintiff's duties.
(Id. Ex. 1 (Plaintiff Dep. at 41); Ex. 4 (Schroeder
Dep. at 11-12); Kylander Aff. at ¶6; Stumne Aff. at
¶ 6; Steward Aff. at ¶ 5; Fallon Aff. at
¶¶ 8-9; Anderson Aff. at ¶ 5; Englund Aff. at
¶ 7; Christensen Aff. at ¶ 7; Benoit Aff. at ¶
9; Houtsma Aff. at ¶ 10 and Kalb Aff. at ¶ 7).)
November 21, 2017, Plaintiff served a state court Summons and
Complaint on the County. In the Complaint, Plaintiff has
asserted claims of age discrimination in violation of Minn.
Stat. § 181.81, reprisal and interference in violation
of the FMLA, and invasion of privacy in violation of state
law. The County removed the action to this Court, asserting
this Court has original jurisdiction over the FMLA claim.
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