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Dahlberg v. Radisson Blu Mall of America

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

September 9, 2019

Catherine Dahlberg, Plaintiff,
Radisson Blu Mall of America, Defendant.

          Catherine Dahlberg, plaintiff pro se.

          Alec J. Beck, Esq. and Ford & Harrison LLP, counsel for defendant.


          David S. Doty, United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the court upon the motion for summary judgment by defendant Radisson Blu Mall of America. After a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants the motion.


         This employment dispute arises out of Radisson's decision to terminate pro se plaintiff Catherine Dahlberg's employment. Radisson hired Dahlberg as a front office representative on September 7, 2016. Dahlberg was responsible for checking guests in and out of the hotel and fielding guest questions and comments.

         On October 12, 2016, a guest asked Dahlberg if she was from China. Dahlberg Dep. at 143:17-44:4. Dahlberg felt that the guest's manner and tone were threatening. Id. at 145:24-25. Dahlberg told the guest that she was not comfortable answering the question. Beck Aff. Ex. 5 at 1. The guest then asked where in China Dahlberg was from. Id.; Dahlberg Dep. at 158:20-21. Dahlberg responded that she did not want to answer the question. Beck Aff. Ex. 5. The front desk supervisor, Tee Phan, observed the exchange and noticed that the guest appeared to be shocked by Dahlberg's response. Id.; Dahlberg Dep. at 159:15-19. Phan then asked Dahlberg to discuss the matter in her office. Phan Aff. ¶ 3; Dahlberg Dep. at 161:12-16.

         Dahlberg explained that she did not want to engage guests in discussions about personal matters but felt she had been cordial to the guest. Beck Aff. Ex. 5 at 1. Phan advised Dahlberg that engaging in small talk is part of working in the hospitality industry and that she needed to respond to guest questions in a friendlier manner. Id. Phan offered to help Dahlberg craft appropriate responses to guest questions that may make her uncomfortable. Id. at 2. Phan felt that Dahlberg was defensive during their meeting and that it was ultimately unproductive. Id.; Phan Aff. ¶ 4. Dahlberg returned to work after meeting with Phan and completed her shift. Dahlberg Dep. at 171:8-11. Phan reported the incident to Liisa Soulak, director of guest services. Phan Aff. ¶ 4.

         The following day, Dahlberg reported to work, but requested the day off because she was still upset from the guest interaction the previous day. Dahlberg Dep. at 171:12-72:16; Kam Aff. ¶ 4. Human resources director Jennifer Wroe provided Dahlberg with an employee assistance number so she could set up counseling sessions to work through her distress over the incident. Dahlberg Dep. at 176:25-77:9; Beck Aff. Ex. 6 at 1.

         When Dahlberg reported to work on Friday, October 14, Wroe asked her to meet in Wroe's office. Wroe Aff. ¶ 4; Dahlberg Dep. at 95:19-96:14, 175:4-23. The meeting did not go well. Wroe and Soulak, who was also present, were trying to determine whether Dahlberg could return to her duties, but Dahlberg would not confirm whether she was able to do so. Wroe Aff. ¶ 4; Beck Aff. Ex. 6 at 1. Dahlberg told them that the guest interaction on October 12 as “the most stressful ten seconds of her life.” Wroe Aff. ¶ 4; Beck Aff. Ex. 6 at 1; Dahlberg Dep. at 184:2-8. She mimicked the guest involved in the incident and, according to Wroe, became loud and angry when doing so.[1] Wroe Aff. ¶ 5; Beck Aff. Ex. 6 at 1; Dahlberg Dep. at 186:13-87:5. Dahlberg denies being upset but admits telling Wroe and Soulak that if they wanted to see her loud and aggressive, “she would show them.” Dahlberg Dep. at 187:17-20; Wroe Aff. ¶ 6. She also said that she is not “soft spoken like white people.” Dahlberg Dep. at 188:11-13.

         Wroe reported that Dahlberg seemed confused and acted strangely during the meeting. Wroe Aff. ¶¶ 4-6. She took several breaks, which did not seem to help. Id.

         According to Dahlberg, Wroe was hostile towards her during the meeting and told her that her “race is the reason” Wroe can treat her “like that” and that she could “treat [Dahlberg] poorly without consequences.” Beck Aff. Ex. 2 at 8. At her deposition, however, Dahlberg admitted that Wroe “did not specifically use that wording” or reference Dahlberg's race or national origin. Dahlberg Dep. at 188:18-93:22. Dahlberg also admitted that Wroe did not tell Dahlberg that she could treat her “poorly.” Id. at 194:15-19. Although Dahlberg alleges that “hotel managers called [her] names and said all kinds of mean things about [her] national origin, ” Compl. at 7 ¶ 4, she could not recall any specific discriminatory statements. Dahlberg Dep. at 203:1-09:23.

         Wroe ultimately offered Dahlberg the weekend off to regroup. Wroe Aff. ¶ 6. Dahlberg refused and left Wroe's office. Id. Wroe then asked Scott Huston, the director of facilities, for assistance.[2] Id.; Huston Aff. ¶¶ 1, 3. Huston found Dahlberg in the break room crying and brought her back to Wroe's office to try to calm her down. Huston Aff. ¶ 4. Huston told Dahlberg that she needed to leave for the day. Id.; Wroe Aff. ¶ 7. According to Dahlberg, however, Huston immediately fired her. Dahlberg Dep. at 214:3-6. She said that he later told her to go home and let the hotel know if she would be able to return to work. Id. at 215:13-16:13.

         After being told she needed to go home, Dahlberg cried, used numerous tissues to wipe her face, and threw the tissues on the floor. Wroe Aff. ¶ 7. Dahlberg then announced that she could not feel her hands or feet and that she was having trouble breathing. Id. ¶ 8; Huston Aff. ¶ 5. Huston alerted hotel security personnel, who called the paramedics.[3] Huston Aff. ¶ 5. The Bloomington police and paramedics arrived a short time later and attempted to escort Dahlberg from the hotel. Id. ¶ 6. Dahlberg refused to leave the hotel for approximately two hours. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. At some point, hotel security asked the police to issue a trespass order. Id. The police did so and ordered the ...

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