United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Anita M. Kempf, Plaintiff,
Hennepin County, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
WILHELMINA M. WRIGHT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Hennepin County's
motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. 16.) For the reasons
addressed below, the Court grants summary judgment for
Hennepin County on all of the remaining counts of Plaintiff
Anita M. Kempf's complaint.
was an architect at Hennepin County from 1997 to 2016. During
her employment at Hennepin County, Kempf's performance
reviews indicated that she met or exceeded expectations in
nearly all aspects of her work. Kempf was a Senior Project
Architect in 2016.
March 9, 2016, Jay Biedny, Kempf's Division Manager, went
to Kempf's office to discuss a project referred to as the
Seward Office Renovation. According to Kempf, Biedny was
speaking “in a loud and hostile voice” from the
beginning. At her deposition, Kempf describes the incident as
I was looking at my calendar back in the corner. He was right
up to the back of my chair, and I didn't know that at the
time, he said, “stop, stop emailing, ” in a very
loud voice. I turned my head, his crotch was in my face, I
looked up and I screamed in terror.
[. . .]
His approach and his continued entry into my work space and
his being-trapping me back in the corner and towering over me
and yelling at me was very frightening . . . . He was totally
up against the back of my chair, his crotch was within six
inches of my face . . . . [I]t felt like an assault was
asked Biedny to leave multiple times and had to shut her door
to compose herself.
to Biedny, he had sent Kempt an email the day before, asking
her about the necessary preparation for the Seward Office
Renovation project to commence the following week. Biedny
requested Kempf to respond that afternoon. Because he had
received no reply from Kempf, Biedny went to her office the
following day to discuss the issue raised in his email.
Biedny's written report of the incident includes the
I stated that “Jerome [her supervisor] had received
calls from the site users and that those users were
concerned. They wanted to know if the project was going to
proceed or not.” At this she said that “if they
want to know, then I will cancel by email right now.” I
told her “canceling the project today would not resolve
the impasse she has . . . .” At this, her voice changed
from shouts to screams.
[. . .]
I then tried to calm her down by stating that her screaming
was not helpful. At that point a rage came over her and she
order me to stop talking and to leave her office. . . . Then
I said “I am sorry that we could not address this
important issue in a civil tone.” At that she jumped
out of her chair and move[d] toward me yelling “stop
talking and get out of my office” waving her hands in
my face. At that time, I backed away from her and into the
doorway. She then took the door in hand and slammed it shut[,
] forcing me into the hallway.
(First alteration in original.)
employees working nearby reported that they heard Kempf
scream, not Biedny. Barbara O'Brien, Deputy Director of
Facility Services, who also was on the floor, heard Kempf
screaming and heard her slam the door.
Biedny and Kempf reported the incident to O'Brien that
same day. O'Brien immediately contacted Eric
Slette, the department's Human Resources Business
Partner, and launched a formal investigation. Jerome Ryan,
Kempf's supervisor, who reported directly to Biedny, led
the investigation. Biedny submitted a written statement, and
Ryan interviewed Kempf. The evidence suggests that Biedny
received updates about the investigation, which Kempf did not
the investigation, Hennepin County concluded that Kempf
committed misconduct on March 9, 2016, and issued her a
five-day unpaid suspension. The Five Day Suspension notice,
dated March 17, 2016, stated that Kempf's conduct on
March 9, 2016, violated Hennepin County Human Resources Rule
16.3g, which provides that: “No employee shall conduct
himself/herself in any manner which shall reflect negatively
on the County.” The notice also cited as justifications
for the suspension Kempf's performance deficiencies, her
poking O'Brien on March 9, 2016, and an oral reprimand
that Kempf received in 2014.
who did not appeal the suspension within the prescribed five
working days, served the suspension between ...