may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Melodie Paulsen, et al.,
Guidant Corporation, et al.,
Filed December 31, 1996
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded
Ramsey County District Court
File No. C5-95-5453
Robert R. Reinhart, Dorsey & Whitney L.L.P., Pillsbury Center, 220 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402-1498; Marsh J. Halberg, Richard W. Pins, Thomsen & Nybeck, P.A., Edinborough Corporate Center East, Suite 600, 3300 Edinborough Way, Edina, MN 55435-5962 (for Respondents)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.
Appellants, Melodie Paulsen and Paulette Olson, challenge the district court's grant of summary judgment to respondents, Guidant Corporation f/k/a Cardiac Pacemakers, Inc. (Guidant) and Dacon Engineering and Service Company, Inc. (Dacon) on their claims of gender and religious discrimination, religious harassment, reprisal, and defamation. Because we conclude appellants raised material questions as to the gender discrimination and reprisal claims against Guidant, we reverse and remand on those issues. Because we conclude appellants failed to raise a material question as to the gender discrimination and reprisal claims against respondent Dacon and the religious discrimination, harassment, and defamation claims against both respondents, we affirm on those issues.
Dacon, a temporary employment agency, pursuant to its agreement to supply workers to Guidant, placed both appellants as contract workers with Guidant's Quality Assurance/Document Control Department. In late 1993, Guidant employee Gary Wereley became appellants' supervisor. Shortly thereafter, appellants allege that Wereley began making sexist and religious comments and began treating them negatively. Within months, Guidant decided to end appellants' employment contracts. Olson's contract was cancelled in April 1994, and Paulsen's was not renewed in June 1994. Appellants based their claims against respondents for discrimination, reprisal, harassment, and defamation primarily on Wereley's actions.
Once a claimant establishes a prima facie case and the employer articulates a nondiscriminatory reason for its actions, the claimant must prove those reasons pretextual and bears the ultimate burden of persuasion to prevail. See Hubbard, 330 N.W.2d at 442, 444 (setting out generalized formulation of McDonnell-Douglas three-step analysis); Sigurdson v. Isanti County, 386 N.W.2d 715, 720-21 (Minn. 1986) (requiring district court to rely on McDonnell-Douglas analysis). The facts support the district court's finding that respondents articulated legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for their actions toward appellants. Respondents established that they acted pursuant to a company reorganization and cost-saving plan. Therefore, we examine whether appellants provided sufficient facts to show that respondents' justifications were pretextual and whether they could ultimately prove that respondents acted with discriminatory or retaliatory intent.
A. Gender Discrimination
Appellants offered several facts suggesting that Guidant's decisions to end their contracts were not related to the proffered justifications of cost-saving or restructuring: (1) Guidant had expressed a desire to renew Olson's contract, but retracted it one month after appellants' complaints about Wereley's behavior; and (2) after appellants left Guidant, experienced male workers, rather than the new, lower-paid workers, performed many, if not all, of appellants' prior duties. Further, appellants provided other facts suggesting that Guidant acted with discriminatory intent: Wereley moved appellants' cubicles to less desirable locations; adversely changed their work assignments; provided specialized training for two male workers and not appellants; refused Olson's requested overtime; increased scrutiny of appellants' work and time cards; and failed to give appellants performance reviews while male office workers received reviews.
Because we conclude appellants raised sufficient facts to create a material issue as to Guidant's motivations, we reverse the district court's grant of summary judgment to Guidant and remand this issue for trial. However, because appellants offered no facts showing that Dacon acted with discriminatory motives when it ended its employment relationships with them, we affirm the district court's summary judgment for Dacon on the claim of gender discrimination.
The district court determined that respondent Guidant's proffered non-discriminatory reasons for its actions, restructuring and cost saving, also negated appellants' reprisal claims. In addition to the facts showing that the decisions to end appellants' contracts were not related to the company's restructuring plan, appellants provided other facts suggesting that Guidant acted with retaliatory intent. After appellants complained about Wereley, he allegedly began checking on them often, going into their offices when empty to wait for their return, and scrutinizing their time cards. Respondents' proffered reasons do not justify these actions. Moreover, after Guidant informed Dacon it would not renew Paulsen's contract and cancelled Olson's contract, a Dacon representative called each appellant and asked if she was a "troublemaker." These facts suggest Guidant complained to Dacon about appellants' discrimination complaints when it decided to terminate the employment relationships. Because these facts create an issue as to Guidant's basis for terminating the contracts, we reverse the district court's grant of summary judgment for Guidant on this issue.
Appellants fail to offer sufficient facts, however, to prove a reprisal claim against Dacon. Even after Guidant had terminated its relationship with appellants, appellants admit that Dacon sent them both on interviews for new positions. Therefore, we affirm the district court's summary judgment for Dacon on this issue.
Furthermore, appellants have failed to provide sufficient facts to support their claims for religious harassment against either respondent. To prove their claims, appellants must show that the alleged harassment created a hostile or abusive work environment. Cf. Thompson v. Campbell, 845 F.Supp 665, 672-74 (D. Minn. 1994) (granting summary judgment to defendants on sexual harassment because alleged offensive conduct did not create pervasive hostile environment). Because Wereley's alleged comments were, at most, isolated, they do not constitute a hostile work environment. Therefore, we affirm the district court on these issues for both respondents.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
[ ]1The trial court found that both respondents were appellants' "employer" for purposes of the claims. Neither respondent appealed that finding.
[ ]2In a Special Term order granting appellants' motion to strike, this court decided respondents' challenge to appellants' prima facie case was precluded by their failure to file a notice of review.
[ ]3Wereley reviewed only one woman in appellants' department and gave her the only negative review.