This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998)
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Jane Ann Johnson,
Johnson-Reiland Construction, Inc.,
Filed May 2, 2000
Reversed and remanded
Dakota County District Court
File No. C0989017
Teresa K. Patton, James C. Wicka, Jeffrey M. Ellis, Messerli & Kramer, P.A., 1800 Fifth Street Tower, 150 South Fifth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402-4218 (for appellant)
LuAnn M. Petricka, LuAnn M. Petricka, P.A., 4100 Multifoods Tower, 33 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Jane Ann Johnson challenges the trial court’s dismissal of her complaint against respondent Johnson-Reiland Construction, Inc., for failure to prove a prima facie case of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, or reprisal under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), Minn. Stat. § 363.01-.20 (1998). Because the trial court failed to make findings of fact sufficient for effective appellate review, we reverse.
Appellant Jane Ann Johnson is a former employee of respondent Johnson-Reiland Construction, Inc. In April 1994 respondent hired her to work as a bookkeeper. On October 13, 1994, appellant made a formal complaint to her supervisor that the company vice-president told jokes of a sexual nature, made comments about female anatomy, and used other offensive language. Respondent fired her on October 28, 1994.
After her termination, appellant filed a charge of discrimination with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which issued a finding of probable cause in her favor. Appellant sued respondent, alleging sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and reprisal in violation of the MHRA. At the conclusion of appellant’s case-in-chief, respondent moved to dismiss on the basis that appellant had failed to establish a prima facie case for any of her claims. The court granted respondent’s motion. In its memorandum the court stated that appellant’s testimony was not credible; thus, she did not have a good-faith belief that the acts she complained of constituted gender discrimination or sexual harassment.
D E C I S I O N
The trial court granted respondent’s motion for involuntary dismissal under Minn. R. Civ. P. 41.02(b), which states:
After the plaintiff has completed the presentation of evidence, the defendant, without waiving the right to offer evidence in the event the motion is not granted, may move for dismissal on the ground that upon the facts and the law, the plaintiff has shown no right to relief. In an action tried by the court without a jury, the court as trier of fact may then determine the facts and render judgment against the plaintiff or may decline to render judgment until the close of all the evidence. If the court renders judgment on the merits against the plaintiff, the court shall make findings as provided in Rule 52.01.
(Emphasis added.) Rule 52.01 states:
In all actions tried upon the facts without a jury or with an advisory jury, the court shall find the facts specially and state separately its conclusions of law thereon and direct the entry of the appropriate judgment; * * * . Requests for findings are not necessary for purposes of review.
Appellant argues on appeal that the trial court failed to make findings of fact as required by Rules 41.02(b) and 52.01 and ordered a bare dismissal, requiring this court to review the evidence anew and in a light most favorable to her. See Fidelity Bank & Trust Co. v. Fitzimons, 261 N.W.2d 586, 588 n. 5 (Minn. 1977) (“A bare dismissal would call for a view of the evidence most favorable to the plaintiff.”). Respondent argues that appellant’s failure to move for amended findings of fact at the trial level resulted in a waiver of her right to challenge the sufficiency of the findings on appeal.
We note first that this court has consistently encouraged post-trial motions, such as motions for findings or amended findings, because they provide the trial court with an opportunity to review the evidence and rectify errors or omissions alleged by the parties. Bliss v. Bliss, 493 N.W.2d 583, 589 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Feb. 12, 1993). But the failure to move for amended findings “cannot bar a challenge on appeal that the record does not reveal with sufficient clarity the factual basis supporting the trial court’s decision.” Roberson v. Roberson, 296 Minn. 476, 478, 206 N.W.2d 347, 348 (Minn. 1973).
Where the record is reasonably clear and the facts not seriously disputed, the judgment of the trial court can be upheld in the absence of findings made under Rule 52.01. Id.
However, where the record is not clear and the facts are in dispute, findings of fact by the trial court, made pursuant to Rule 52.01, should be made.
Here, the trial court followed the order dismissing appellant’s case with a written memorandum explaining its decision. Findings of fact and conclusions of law need not be identified in separately numbered paragraphs, but may appear in a written opinion or memorandum. Minn R. Civ. P. 52.01 1985 advisory comm. note. The trial court explained why it dismissed the case:
[T]he retaliation claim requires the Plaintiff’s good faith belief that the acts complained of constituted sexual harassment and gender discrimination. A good faith belief requires an assessment of Plaintiff’s credibility and the reasonableness of such claimed belief.
The evidence produced as to Plaintiff’s prior experience in this area, as well as much of her other testimony, undermines Plaintiff’s credibility to the extent that the Court found that her testimony was not credible.
Clearly the court based its decision to dismiss on credibility determinations. Thus, the court did not issue a bare dismissal requiring the standard of review appellant suggests.
However, the trial court failed to make findings of fact from which it can be determined on what basis the court made its credibility determinations.
Because of the significance of factual issues in employment discrimination cases and the attendant deference that must be accorded trial courts in making their determinations on [credibility of a witness or the weight to be given testimony], it is important that the basis for the court’s decision be set forth clearly and explicitly so that an appellate court can conduct effective and meaningful review.
Sigurdson v. Isanti County, 386 N.W.2d 715, 721 (Minn. 1986). Therefore, we remand to the trial court for findings of fact not inconsistent with this opinion.
Reversed and remanded.