This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Noble Ventures, LLC,
Filed March 21, 2006
Hennepin County District Court
File No. DJ 03 001597
Michael D. Schwartz, Schwartz & Smith, P.A., 455 Pond Promenade, Suite 210, P.O. Box 219, Chanhassen, MN 55317 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Crippen, Judge.
Citing employee misconduct, respondent Noble Ventures L.L.C. terminated appellant’s employment shortly after she was employed. Appellant’s subsequent suit alleged that the termination was based on her pregnancy, sex, and marital status, constituting an unfair discriminatory practice under Minn. Stat. § 363.03, subd. 1 (2000) (now codified at Minn. Stat. § 363A.08 (2004)).
In February 2004, the district court denied respondent’s summary judgment motion. When the parties appeared for trial in October 2004, respondent’s counsel, Chad McKenney, stated that his client had terminated his representation and his former client was not prepared to present any trial defense. In response, appellant asserted that a default judgment was appropriate, but the district court announced that it would instead act on the previously developed record, including respondent’s earlier motion for summary judgment.
In January 2005, the court granted summary judgment in respondent’s favor and dismissed appellant’s unlawful-termination claim. The court observed that appellant succeeded in proving a prima facie case but failed as a matter of law to rebut respondent’s earlier claim that the employment termination was prompted by poor performance.
On an appeal from
summary judgment, this court asks whether there are any genuine issues of
material fact and whether the district court erred in its application of the
It is an unfair employment practice under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (the act) for an employer to discriminate against a person as to terms and conditions of employment on the basis of sex. Minn. Stat. § 363A.08, subd. 2 (2004). Sex discrimination under the act includes discrimination because of pregnancy. See Minn. Stat. § 363A.03, subd. 42 (2004).
analyze sex discrimination claims using the burden shifting analysis of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411
U.S. 792, 802–03, 93 S. Ct. 1817, 1824 (1973). See Dietrich v. Canadian Pac. Ltd., 536
N.W.2d 319, 323 (
relevant inquiry under the third prong of
contended in 2004 that the company terminated appellant because of employment
misconduct and performance problems, pointing to appellant’s tendency to arrive
late or leave early, as well as her failure to communicate with her
superiors. Appellant’s affidavit and
deposition assert that her hours at the company were flexible and that she
received no written or verbal warning regarding her performance prior to
announcing her pregnancy. Appellant
alleges that respondent terminated her employment because
these circumstances, the district court’s summary judgment was erroneous. Appellant’s account of events, if true,
demonstrates not only a prima facie case, as the court observed, but also
creates a credibility question regarding respondent’s explanation for the
termination. Appellant’s account thus
creates an issue of material fact regarding an unlawful motivation for her
termination. Moreover the court
wrongfully redetermined the case on the same record that produced a 2004 denial
of respondent’s motion for summary judgment.
Any subsequent submissions for respondent, without counsel, constituted
an improper attempt of a corporation to act in a judicial proceeding without
Nicollet Restoration, Inc. v. Turnham, 486 N.W.2d 753, 754 (
Appellant also disputes the district court’s refusal to enter a default judgment against respondent. Appellant’s default-judgment motion was premised on the announcement on the date for trial that respondent had decided against presenting a defense. Respondent’s counsel reiterated, “I mean to be clear, [respondent] understands that [appellant] [has] a right to pursue trial and obtain a default judgment.” The district court refused appellant’s suggestion for a default judgment and denied her request to present testimony with respect to liability, damages, and attorney fees. After the October 2004 hearing, appellant filed a motion for a default judgment, which also was denied.
The court has
broad discretion to enforce calendar rules and prevent unnecessary and
inexcusable delays. Housing & Redev. Auth. v. Kotlar, 352 N.W.2d 497, 499 (
It is undisputed that respondent violated the district court’s pretrial scheduling orders when it appeared at trial unprepared to defend the matter and respondent’s counsel admitted that appellant had a right to pursue a default judgment. But the record permits the district court’s conclusion that respondent did not withdraw its answer or its prior submissions to the court. See Minn. R. Civ. P. 55.01 (directing court to enter default judgment against defendant who has “failed to plead or otherwise defend” in a matter).
Reversed and remanded.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.