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Ellen Quinn v. St. Louis County

September 6, 2011

ELLEN QUINN, APPELLANT,
v.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shepherd, Circuit Judge.

Submitted: May 12, 2011

Before WOLLMAN, BYE, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

Ellen Quinn sued her employer, St. Louis County, under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), Minn. Stat. §§ 363A.01-.43, and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-54, and asserted other state common law claims including breach of employment contract. Quinn appeals the dismissal of her breach of contract claim with prejudice, the denials of her motions for leave to amend her complaint, the denial of her motion for reconsideration, and the adverse grant of summary judgment on her MHRA and FMLA claims by the district court.*fn1 We affirm.

I.

In February 2007, Quinn, a St. Louis County employee, reported that she had been sexually harassed by Steve Raukar, a County Commissioner. The County launched an investigation into the charges. Quinn and the County eventually negotiated a settlement agreement in which Quinn released the County from any legal liability in exchange for the County's assurance that it would not terminate her other than for just cause for seven years.

After Quinn complained of sexual harassment, she experienced stress, anxiety, and depression. She took FMLA leave from May 14, 2007, to August 10, 2007, on the advice of her physician. When Quinn returned to work, several incidents occurred that led Quinn to believe the County was retaliating against her for reporting sexual harassment. County employees accused her of lying about the sexual harassment, her office was moved, and after she painted her office a custom color it was immediately repainted white. In addition, Quinn testified that she was excluded from attending out-of-state marketing meetings and workshops and from changing the County's video and sound systems, even though she was involved with these tasks in the past. Quinn also recounted that throughout the fall of 2007, several County Commissioners were quoted in the local media as challenging the veracity of her sexual harassment complaint.

In early 2008, the County hired Alan Mitchell, the attorney who had represented Commissioner Raukar during the investigation into Quinn's charges of sexual harrassment, as County Administrator and Quinn's boss. Soon after, Quinn visited her doctor because she felt anxious and depressed about working with Mitchell. Quinn recalled that during a meeting, Mitchell called her a "problem employee," stated that they did not "need to go out for dinner or for drinks or on a date to get along," and instructed her to "work hard." Quinn requested that the Deputy County Administrator be her supervisor rather than Mitchell, but Mitchell refused.

Over the next few months, Mitchell accused Quinn of tardiness in turning in a project that she had turned in on time, yelled at her in front of her co-workers during a meeting, indicated that she might not be granted FMLA leave if she requested it, and warned her in writing to report to work on time every day and obtain advance approval for any absence.

In March 2008, Quinn's anxiety and depression had increased to the point that her doctor advised that she take leave from work. Quinn asked for and received an adjusted work schedule of three days per week. Quinn stopped reporting for work in early April 2008, using sick leave until May 14, when she was eligible for FMLA leave. In August 2008, Mitchell informed Quinn that her FMLA leave had expired and requested that she obtain an independent medical examination to confirm her need for full-time, non-FMLA leave. In September 2008, an independent physician confirmed that Quinn was unable to work for the County, and Mitchell authorized Quinn's use of her remaining sick leave. In December 2008, Mitchell received a letter from Quinn's doctor stating that she would never be able to return to work for the County.

In May 2009, Quinn sued the County, asserting claims for MHRA reprisal discrimination, FMLA interference, FMLA retaliation, breach of contract, and other claims.*fn2 The County moved to dismiss Quinn's claim for breach of her employment contract under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Quinn responded, asking the court to either deny the motion to dismiss on the merits or allow Quinn leave to amend her complaint. The district court denied leave to amend and granted the County's motion, finding that both Quinn's original complaint and her first proposed amended complaint failed to state a claim for breach of her employment contract, and dismissing Quinn's claim with prejudice. Quinn moved for leave to amend her complaint a second time, which the district court denied. Quinn then moved for reconsideration, requesting that the court either allow her to amend her complaint or amend its order dismissing her claim without prejudice, which the district court denied. The County moved for summary judgment on Quinn's MHRA and FMLA claims. The district court granted the County's motion.

On appeal, Quinn raises several issues with respect to the district court's rulings related to her breach of employment contract claim, and she challenges the district court's adverse grant of summary judgment.

II.

Quinn attempts to revive her breach of employment contract claim on several grounds: (1) her original complaint sufficiently stated a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and the district court required her complaint to include facts beyond that required by Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009); (2) in the alternative, the district court should have dismissed her claim without prejudice rather than with prejudice; (3) the district court abused its discretion in denying her first and ...


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