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In Minnesota, pregnancy might cost you a job, but you're allowed to kick a guy

Frank Baker's police brutality lawsuit brought a $2 million settlement, and, apparently, no firings.

Frank Baker's police brutality lawsuit brought a $2 million settlement, and, apparently, no firings.

As of Wednesday, Minnesota is a less attractive state if you're the kind of person who might some day become pregnant, and a much better one if you're the kind of person who might wind up kicking someone on the job.

We learned this thanks to two employment law decisions which coincidentally landed within a few hours of each other.

The first story comes from Minnesota Public Radio, which details the Supreme Court's decision in an employment discrimination case. In late 2015, a state appeals court found in favor of Nicole LaPoint, who had claimed that a job offer at a St. Louis Park orthodontist office was rescinded after LaPoint disclosed that she was pregnant. 

Her would-be employer, Dr. Angela Ross, had argued the issue was a dispute over LaPoint's request for leave -- she wanted 12 weeks, when the clinic offered only six -- was out of line; Ross was also upset LaPoint had not disclosed her pregnancy during the job interview. 

According to the narrative laid out in the opinion, LaPoint explained to Ross in an email that she'd had a reason for not bringing it up:

She had not told Dr. Ross about the pregnancy at the interview because it was still in an early stage, and she had not even told her family yet. LaPoint wrote that she had disclosed the pregnancy after accepting the offer as “the action of a loyal employee who has the office’s best interest at heart.” She assured Dr. Ross that she planned to return to work after the birth.

Ross replied that this didn't assuage her problem with the request for 12 weeks of leave. LaPoint replied, saying she "looked forward to speaking with [Dr. Ross] on the telephone... to clarify the two points."

Ross went on a planned vacation, came back, and ... didn't call. A month went by. Then, per the decision:

In May, Dr. Ross eventually filled the orthodontic assistant position, hiring a recent graduate who had previously interned at Family Orthodontics. The new hire was not pregnant.

 

OK then! In overturning the appeals court, the supreme court majority sided with a district court judge, who'd found that the request for time off, and not the pregnancy itself, was the "overriding concern" that led to LaPoint not getting the job.

In a dissent, Judge Margaret Chutich wrote the Minnesota Human Rights Act covers a situation like LaPoint's, by "[giving] applicants the right to withhold information relating to pregnancy or childbirth before receiving a job offer."

Now, for the other case that came down yesterday. Officer Brett Palkowitsch will apparently be re-hired by the St. Paul Police Department, despite being videotaped kicking Frank Baker, an innocent man, so hard that Baker suffered broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Baker's injuries were such that he has received a $2 million settlement from the City of St. Paul.

But not enough to uphold St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell's decision to fire Palkowitsch. The Pioneer Press reports an arbitrator with the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services has downgraded that termination to a 30-day suspension without pay.

Cops involved in the confrontation, which also saw a police German Shepherd deployed on Baker for more than a minute, had said they thought he was armed and dangerous.

In a remarkable passage, the arbitrator, Richard Miller, wrote that the "situation could have been easily avoided had Mr. Baker simply complied with the reasonable commands ... to leave his vehicle and keep both hands in the air and approach the officer."

One sentence later, Miller writes that had the first officer not sicced the dog on Baker, and had Palkowitsch not kicked him three times while he was on the ground, "Mr. Baker would have avoided the pain and suffering from the dog’s leg bite and/or broken ribs and collapsed lungs from the kicks." Thanks, Richard. Have you considered a career as a logician?

Miller's recommendation to give Palkowitsch his badge back is a bruising decision for Chief Axtell. A civilian review board had first recommended Brian Ficcadenti, the K-9 officer, be suspended 10 days, and Palkowitsch for 30; Axtell upped those penalties of his own volition, giving Ficcadenti 30 days off, and firing Palkowitsch outright.

The arbitrator found that Ficcadenti's and Palkowitsch's actions were "egregious," but "not distinguishable" from each other, and that each should receive the same penalty... and that it should be the lighter sentence, of a 30-day suspension, instead of both of them getting fired.

If not this case, when can a department get rid of a cop? Maybe Axtell could've fired Palkowitsch if it turned out he kicked Frank Baker due to hormones brought on by an undisclosed pregnancy.