UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Plaintiff,

v.

CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA,

Defendant.

 

Civil Action No. 0:18-cv-02371
JURY TRIAL DEMANDED

 

Settlement Agreement

COMPLAINT

Plaintiff United States of America ("United States") alleges as follows:

  1. This action is brought by the United States to enforce Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111-12117, as amended, and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000ff – 2000ff-11, which incorporate, through 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a) and 42 U.S.C. § 2000ff-6, the powers, remedies, and procedures set forth in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17.
  2. Defendant discriminated against the complainant, a veteran of the U.S. military, by failing to hire him for a Police Officer Position because of his disability of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).   Defendant also discriminated against applicants for Police Officer positions by requesting and obtaining genetic information from them during the pre-employment examination process, which includes information about the manifestation of a disease or disorder in family members (family medical history). 

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

  1. This Court has jurisdiction of this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e‑5(f), 2000e‑6, and 2000ff-6; and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1345.
  2. This Court has authority to grant a declaratory judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202, and authority to grant equitable relief and monetary damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 12117(a) and 2000ff-6(a).
  3. The City of Minneapolis (“Defendant”) is a local governmental entity and political subdivision of the State of Minnesota, established pursuant to the laws of Minnesota.
  4. Venue is appropriate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391 because Defendant is located in Hennepin County and a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claims occurred in Hennepin County.
  5. Defendant is a person within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12111(7) and § 2000e(a), and 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(c); an employer within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12111(5), § 2000e(b), and § 2000ff(2)(B), and 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(e); and a covered entity within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12111(2) and 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(b).
  6. On or about May 1, 2013, the complainant filed a timely charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging that Defendant discriminated against him by denying him employment in violation of the ADA and GINA on the basis of disability and genetic information.
  7. The EEOC investigated the complainant’s charge and found reasonable cause to believe that Defendant discriminated against the complainant and others on the basis of disability and genetic information in violation of the ADA and Title II of GINA.  After conciliation failed, the EEOC referred the charge to the United States Department of Justice.
  8. The United States, through the Department of Justice, conducted an investigation of whether Defendant’s employment practices discriminate on the basis of disability and genetic information and notified Defendant of that investigation.
  9. All conditions precedent to the filing of this action have been performed.

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

  1. The complainant is a veteran of the U.S. military. 
  2. The complainant served in the Minnesota National Guard from 2000-2002 and 2006-2008.  He served in the U.S. Army from 2002-2005, and received several medals and badges for his military service in Iraq. 
  3. As a result of trauma the complainant experienced during his military service in Iraq, he was diagnosed with PTSD by medical professionals at the Department of Veterans Affairs after his return from military combat in late 2005.
  4. The complainant is a person with a disability because he has a physical or mental impairment (PTSD) that substantially limits one or more major life activities, including the operation of major bodily functions, such as neurological and brain functions, thinking, concentrating, and/or sleeping; because he has a record of such impairment; and/or because he was regarded as having such impairment. 
  5. The complainant underwent treatment for his PTSD.
  6. The complainant’s PTSD is well-controlled and does not interfere with his ability to work.
  7. The complainant performed his post-military jobs successfully after being diagnosed with PTSD.
  8. The complainant attended the University of Minnesota and North Hennepin Community College, where he obtained an associate’s degree in law enforcement and criminal justice in 2012.
  9. The complainant applied for a Police Officer position with Defendant in September 2012. 
  10. The complainant had very positive recommendations from his military supervisors and post-military jobs, as documented in Defendant’s applicant background investigation report regarding the complainant.
  11. The complainant’s references describe him as having the qualifications to be an outstanding Police Officer, with the ability to perform effectively under high-stress situations.
  12. Background investigation reports about applicants are relied upon by Defendant in making hiring decisions.
  13. In February 2013, the complainant received a conditional offer of employment from Defendant, after having passed the physical fitness exam, an oral interview, and background investigation, and after having been selected by Police Department management.
  14. After accepting the conditional offer, the complainant passed the medical exam and was determined to be medically qualified, pending a psychological evaluation conducted of applicants who receive conditional offers of employment from Defendant.
  15. At all times relevant to this Complaint, Defendant’s psychological evaluation consisted of two components.  First, applicants were administered the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2-Restructured Form (MMPI-2-RF).  Second, applicants underwent an oral interview that is intended to determine whether the applicant is free from any emotional or mental condition which might adversely affect performance as a Police Officer. 
  16. At all times relevant to this Complaint, the oral interviews for Defendant were conducted by Dr. Thomas Gratzer, a psychiatrist with EvaluMed, Inc., a private medical evaluation and services company.
  17. The Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST Board) is a regulatory agency that sets employment and licensing standards for law enforcement agencies and officers in Minnesota. 
  18. In relation to psychological evaluations, the POST requirements provide that, “An evaluation, including an oral interview, shall be made by a licensed psychologist to determine that the applicant is free from any emotional or mental condition which might adversely affect the performance of peace officer duties.”  https://www.revisor.mn.gov/rules/?id=6700.0700.
  19. Upon completing each psychological evaluation, Dr. Gratzer wrote a report and submitted it to Defendant.
  20. Dr. Gratzer sometimes discussed the content of the reports with Defendant.
  21. Typically, each report Dr. Gratzer wrote for Defendant contained a section entitled “Family History,” wherein Dr. Gratzer described alleged facts that he considers relevant to the psychological and chemical dependency history of the applicant’s family. 
  22. Dr. Gratzer concluded in his report that the complainant was not “psychiatrically fit” to work as a Police Officer for Defendant.
  23. The reasons Dr. Gratzer gave for his determination that the complainant was not psychiatrically fit to work as a Police Officer for Defendant include his “service connected disability related to PTSD” and “history of PTSD . . . .”
  24. Dr. Gratzer made the determination that the complainant was not psychiatrically fit to work as a Police Officer for Defendant based on the complainant’s diagnosis and history of PTSD and not based on his current fitness for duty.
  25. Based on Dr. Gratzer’s report regarding the complainant, Defendant determined not to hire the complainant.
  26. Defendant relied on the findings of Dr. Gratzer regarding the complainant’s PTSD in determining not to hire the complainant.
  27. Defendant sent the complainant a letter notifying him of the decision not to hire him that was dated March 21, 2013. 
  28. Numerous other applicants were not hired for Police Officer positions by Defendant based on the psychological evaluation by Dr. Gratzer.
  29. Numerous other applicants, who were not hired based on the psychological evaluation by Dr. Gratzer, were asked about their family medical history during the psychological exam and disclosed their family medical history, as documented in Dr. Gratzer’s reports submitted to Defendant.
  30. After the complainant was rejected for hire by Defendant, he was hired as a Police Officer for the City of Anoka Police Department in Minnesota. 
  31. In 2016, the complainant was promoted to the Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) Team with the City of Anoka Police Department, where he is responsible for responding to immediate life-threatening situations using specialized tactics and equipment and executing high-risk drug and felony warrants. 
  32. In January 2018, Defendant approved a contract to replace Dr. Gratzer of EvaluMed, Inc. with Aspen Psychological Consulting LLC., run by a psychologist, after public criticism that Dr. Gratzer, as a psychiatrist, did not comply with POST’s requirement that a psychologist conduct the psychological evaluations and allegations related to his inappropriate screening out of certain applicants for hire.

CAUSES OF ACTION
Count I - Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act

  1. The United States repeats and incorporates by reference the factual allegations set forth in paragraphs 1-43.
  2. By excluding and failing to hire him for a Police Officer position, Defendant discriminated against the complainant, who was an otherwise qualified applicant for a Police Officer position, because he has an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, and/or was regarded by Defendant as having an impairment.  42 U.S.C. §§ 12102, 12111, 12112; 29 C.F.R. §§ 1630.2, 1630.4. 
  3. As a result of Defendant’s unlawful disability discrimination, the complainant has suffered significant monetary loss, including loss of earnings and other benefits, and has suffered severe emotional pain, suffering, and other nonpecuniary losses.

Count II - Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008

  1. The United States repeats and incorporates by reference the factual allegations set forth in paragraphs 1-43.
  2. Defendant routinely requests and obtains genetic information, which includes information about the manifestation of a disease or disorder in family members (family medical history) from applicants for Police Officer positions as part of the pre-employment examination process. 
  3. Defendant’s actions in requesting and obtaining genetic information violate Title II of GINA, which prohibits employers from requesting or requiring genetic information with respect to an employee or applicant, or a family member of the employee or applicant.  42 U.S.C.  §§ 2000ff, 2000ff-1, 2000ff-6; 29 C.F.R. §§ 1635.3, 1635.8.
  4. Defendant’s conduct constitutes a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of genetic information by routinely requesting and obtaining genetic information of applicants in violation of Title II GINA.  42 U.S.C. §§ 2000ff, 2000ff-1, 2000ff-6; 29 C.F.R. §§ 1635.3, 1635.8.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court grant the following relief:

  1. Award all appropriate monetary relief, including back pay where applicable, to the complainant for any loss suffered as a result of the discrimination alleged in this Complaint;
  2. Award compensatory damages to the complainant to compensate him for his emotional pain, suffering, and any other nonpecuniary losses suffered as a result of the discrimination alleged in this Complaint;
  3. Enjoin Defendant from discriminating against any applicant or employee on the basis of disability or genetic information;
  4. Order Defendant to:                                                       
    1. adopt policies that do not discriminate on the basis of disability or genetic information;
    2. provide adequate training on discrimination to all of Defendant’s Police Department officials, officers, agents, and employees who are responsible for making hiring determinations and determinations on employees’ reasonable accommodation requests, and who are responsible for investigating and responding to employees’ discrimination complaints; and
  5. Grant such other and further relief as may be just and proper together with the United States’ costs and disbursements in this action.

JURY DEMAND

The United States hereby demands a jury trial pursuant to Rule 38 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Section 102 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981a.

Dated: 08/14/18

Respectfully submitted,

JOHN M. GORE
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division

BY:

REBECCA B. BOND
Chief
KEVIN J. KIJEWSKI
Deputy Chief
/s/ Elaine Grant
ELAINE GRANT (DC Bar No. 457163)
Senior Trial Attorney
United States Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
New York Avenue Building, Room 4006
Washington, DC  20530
Telephone:  (202) 307-1444
Facsimile:  (202) 307-1197
Email:  Elaine.Grant@usdoj.gov

Counsel for Plaintiff United States