Hansen Wins Long Fight in Minnesota Supreme Court

Ruling in Minnesota Supreme Court Can Have Major Significance for Employers

MINNEAPOLIS, April 26, 2017 - Erik Hansen, of Burns and Hansen P.A. recently won a ruling in the Minnesota Supreme Court which will have major implications for employers in the future. Hansen's client, Scott Peterson, a police officer in Minneapolis, brought an age discrimination claim against the city of Minneapolis. This case was initially thrown out by the district court after a year-long internal investigation. The district court found that the internal investigation did not stop the running of the limitations period. The Supreme Court kept Peterson's case alive in their ruling that an internal investigation of a discrimination complaint suspends the statute of limitations.

The Supreme Court's opinion was in line with that of the Court of Appeals and ruled that the internal investigation of the discrimination claim is considered a dispute resolution process under the Minnesota Human Rights Act:

"The running of the one-year limitation period is suspended during the time a potential charging party and respondent are voluntarily engaged in a dispute-resolution process involving a claim of unlawful discrimination under this chapter including arbitration, conciliation, mediation or grievance procedures pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement or statutory, charter, ordinance provisions for a civil service or other employment system or a school board sexual harassment or sexual violence party."

Human Rights Act, Minn. Stat. sec. 363A.28, subd. 3.

Hansen said, "The City of Minneapolis unsuccessfully argued that their internal investigation was not a dispute resolution process."

The Court decided that the parties were voluntarily engaged in a dispute resolution process based on the fact that Peterson brought forth a complaint which was not mandatory of his own accord. The Court then decided that the internal investigation was considered a dispute-resolution process under the statute based on the fact that the workplace policy is "a process capable of resolving claims and providing relief and a written document of procedures that ensures an objectively verifiable starting and ending date. It also uses employees not involved in a dispute to investigate complaints."

The case represents the first time that the Minnesota Supreme Court has weighed in on the meaning of what is a dispute resolution process under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

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