Kempf v. Hennepin County, No. 20-1308 (8th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff appealed the district court's adverse grant of summary judgment on her claims against the County, her former employer, alleging that it retaliated against her for participating in protected activity in violation of Title VII and the Minnesota Whistleblower Act (MWA).
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Title VII suspension-based claim, concluding that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation. In this case, plaintiff failed to show that she engaged in statutorily protected activity because she did not communicate or report any sexual harassment before her suspension. In regard to the termination-based claim, the court applied the burden-shifting McDonnell Douglas framework and concluded that, assuming plaintiff made a prima facie case, the County articulated several legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons for her discharge. Furthermore, plaintiff has not shown that the County's reasons are sufficiently intertwined or fishy that rebutting only some of the reasons discredits them all. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the termination-based claim under Title VII. However, given the relatively novel questions of state law, the court dismissed the MWA claims without prejudice so that they can be taken up by the Minnesota state courts.