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EMPLOYMENT LAW Chap 43A imposes no duty to ensure executive branch employees compnsated equitablySTATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Minnesota Association of
Patricia Anderson, Commissioner of
Department of Employee Relations
for the State of Minnesota, et al.,
Filed July 31, 2007
Ramsey County District Court
File No. C5-06-3229
Gregg M. Corwin, Katherine L. Miller, Gregg M. Corwin & Associates Law Office, P.C., 508 East Parkdale Plaza Building, 1660 South Highway 100, St. Louis Park, MN 55416 (for appellant)
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Gary R. Cunningham, Assistant Attorney General, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1100, St. Paul, MN 55101-2128 (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Willis, Judge; and Parker, Judge.*
S Y L L A B U S
Minnesota Statutes section 43A.01, subdivision 3 (2006), imposes no duty on the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employee Relations to ensure that executive-branch employees are compensated equitably according to the gHay pointsh system.
O P I N I O N
Appellant challenges the district courtfs dismissal of its declaratory-judgment action for the complaintfs failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. Appellant argues that the district court erred when it concluded that Minnesota law imposes no duty on respondents to ensure equitable compensation for executive-branch employees. Because we agree with the district courtfs interpretation of the law, we affirm.
Appellant Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) is an employee organization and is the exclusive representative of executive-branch employees of the State of Minnesota. Respondent Commissioner of the Department of Employee Relations (DOER) is appointed by the governor under Minn. Stat. 43A.03, subd. 2 (2006). The commissioner is the gchief personnel and labor relations manager of the civil service in the executive branch.h Minn. Stat. 43A.04, subd. 1(a) (2006).
In the early 1980s, the state legislature amended chapter 43A, the statute regulating DOER, and added Minn. Stat. 43A.01, subd. 3 (2006), which provides:
It is the policy of this state to attempt to establish equitable compensation relationships between female-dominated, male-dominated, and balanced classes of employees in the executive branch. Compensation relationships are equitable within the meaning of this subdivision when the primary consideration in negotiating, establishing, recommending, and approving total compensation is comparability of the value of the work in relationship to other positions in the executive branch.
In an effort to achieve the goal described by the statute, the Hay Corporation was certified to assign to each job class in, inter alia, the executive branch, gHay pointsh to be considered in assigning pay grades. Hay points are calculated by evaluating the significance of the position as compared with other positions within the branch.
Chapter 43A requires the commissioner to compile biannually a list of job classes gfor which a compensation inequity exists based on comparability of the value of the workh and submit that list, along with an estimate of the appropriation needed to provide gcomparability adjustmentsh to job classes on the list, to the Legislative Coordinating Commission. Minn. Stat. 43A.05, subd. 5 (2006). The commission reviews and approves, disapproves, or modifies the commissionerfs list and proposed appropriation and submits its action to the full legislature. Id. The legislature then approves, rejects, or modifies the commissionfs action and makes an appropriation. Id., subd. 6.
On April 7, 2006, MAPE filed suit against the commissioner and the State of Minnesota (collectively, grespondentsh), alleging that respondents are violating Minn. Stat. 43A.01 gbecause (a) [respondents] are not compensating job classes in accordance with the established Hay Points and (b) [respondents] are compensating positions with the same number of Hay Points at differing rates of pay.h MAPE asked the district court for ga declaratory judgment affirming that [respondents] have a legal duty to equitably compensate [its] members in accordance with [Minn. Stat. 43A.01] by compensating job classes in accordance with the established Hay Points.h
The district court granted respondentsf motion to dismiss MAPEfs complaint on the ground that it failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted, and MAPE appeals.
Does Minn. Stat. 43A.01, subd. 3 (2006), impose a duty on the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employee Relations to ensure that executive-branch employees are compensated equitably according to the gHay pointsh system?
When reviewing a district courtfs dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted, we consider whether the complaint sets forth a legally sufficient claim for relief. Barton v. Moore, 558 N.W.2d 746, 749 (Minn. 1997). We accept as true the facts alleged in the complaint and construe all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Marquette Natfl Bank of Minneapolis v. Norris, 270 N.W.2d 290, 292 (Minn. 1978). We review the district courtfs interpretation and construction of statutes de novo. Lewis-Miller v. Ross, 710 N.W.2d 565, 568 (Minn. 2006).
The district court explained that its grant of respondentsf motion to dismiss was based gin large parth on the first sentence of Minn. Stat. 43A.01, subd. 3 (2006), which provides that g[i]t is the policy of this state to attempt to establish equitable compensation relationships.h (Emphasis added.) The district court noted that section 43A.01, subdivision 3, gcontains no language suggesting a mandate or duty,h that gequitableh does not mean gequal,h and that the commissionerfs proposals regarding compensation adjustments are subject to two tiers of legislative review. The district court, therefore, determined that the commissionerfs only duty regarding equitable-compensation relationships is to compile and submit to the Legislative Coordinating Commission a list of employment classes for which a compensation inequity exists and an estimate of the appropriation necessary to adjust the inequity. The district court concluded that the commissioner ghas been delegated the authority in this matter to exercise his discretion with regard to the policiesf implementationh but that gthe policiesf enforcement has been set aside for the legislature.h
The goal of statutory interpretation is to effectuate the intention of the legislature. Educ. Minn.-Chisholm v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 695, 662 N.W.2d 139, 143 (Minn. 2003). If the meaning of a statute is unambiguous, we interpret the statutefs text according to its plain language. Molloy v. Meier, 679 N.W.2d 711, 723 (Minn. 2004). Only when a statute is ambiguous do we use other canons of construction or extrinsic evidence to discern the legislaturefs intent. See Gomon v. Northland Family Physicians, Ltd., 645 N.W.2d 413, 416 (Minn. 2002).
MAPE argues that the district court improperly concluded that chapter 43A allows respondents discretion in implementing the statefs equitable-compensation policy and asserts that the statute instead gimposes a legal duty on Respondents to equitably compensate employees in the executive branch.h MAPE argues further that the Hay-points system represents equitable-compensation relationships, and, therefore, by not strictly adhering to the system, respondents are breaching their duty to compensate MAPEfs members equitably.
MAPE asserts that its membersf g[p]ay is not equitable because the actual compensation levels are not based on the comparability of the value of the work.h But the plain language of the statute provides that pay is equitable when the value of the work is gthe primary considerationh in determining compensation; it need not be the sole basis for compensation determinations. See Minn. Stat. 43A.01, subd. 3.
We also reject MAPEfs argument that the district court gabused its discretionh when it determined that gequitableh does not mean gequal.h MAPE relies on a dictionary definition of gequitableh to argue that the words are interchangeable. But MAPEfs assertion that gequitableh means gequalh contradicts the plain language of section 43A.01, subdivision 3, which provides that pay is gequitableh for purposes of section 43A.01 gwhen the primary consideration in negotiating, establishing, recommending, and approving total compensation is comparability of the value of the work in relationship to other positions in the executive branch.h When the plain language of a statute is unambiguous, we do not look elsewhere for guidance on construction. Gomon, 645 N.W.2d at 416.
And the plain language of chapter 43A supports the district courtfs conclusion that the statute simply does not impose a duty on respondents to compensate employees equitably. The statute assures that the state will gattempth to compensate employees equitably, and it imposes a duty on the commissioner to submit to the Legislative Coordinating Commission a list of job classes for which compensation inequity exists and an estimate of the appropriation necessary for adjusting any inequity, but it imposes no other duty. See Minn. Stat. 43A.01, subd. 3, .05, subd. 5 (2006). And, as respondents note, there is no mention of Hay points in any Minnesota statute.
MAPE identifies several factors that courts have used to determine legislative intent and argues that it should have been given an opportunity to introduce evidence to gshow legislative intent to deny the Respondents discretionh in implementing the equitable-compensation policy. But evidence of legislative intent other than the plain language of the statute should be considered only if a statutefs language is ambiguous. Molloy, 679 N.W.2d at 723. Here, there is no ambiguity.
MAPE further argues that the district courtfs interpretation of the equitable-compensation provisions of chapter 43A insulates the commissioner from liability under the statute and prevents MAPEfs members from securing gjudicial intervention to enforce their rights under the statute and obtain a meaningful remedy for their injuries,h which gcould not have been intended by the legislature.h But the statute must impose a liability in order for the district courtfs interpretation of the statute to insulate the commissioner from that liability. Because the plain language of the statute imposes no duty—other than the commissionerfs duty under section 43A.05, subdivision 5, to submit a list and a proposed appropriation to the Legislative Coordinating Commission—the commissionerfs failure to ensure gequalh compensation for jobs with the same Hay-points value does not create a liability under the statute from which the commissioner could be insulated. And because the statute does not guarantee MAPEfs members a grighth to equal compensation or even equitable compensation but merely provides that the state will gattempt to establish equitable compensation relationships,h the district courtfs interpretation also does not prevent MAPEfs members from genforc[ing] their rights under the statue and obtain[ing] a meaningful remedy for their injuries.h See Minn. Stat. 43A.01, subd. 3 (emphasis added); see also Gomon, 645 N.W.2d at 416 (noting that gwhen the language of the statute is clear, the court must not engage in any further constructionh to discern legislative intent).
MAPE further argues that the district court incorrectly gruledh that denying respondentsf motion to dismiss would violate the separation-of-powers doctrine. MAPE presumably is referring to a reference in the final sentence of the district courtfs memorandum. The district court did not base its analysis on a theory of separation of powers—the memorandum is almost entirely a discussion of statutory interpretation. Therefore, any reference by the district court to separation of powers was dictum and does not warrant reversal.
D E C I S I O N
Because Minn. Stat. 43A.01, subd. 3 (2006), imposes no duty on the commissioner to ensure that executive-branch employees are compensated equitably according to the gHay pointsh system, the district court did not err by dismissing MAPEfs declaratory-judgment action.
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Michael E. Douglas, Attorney at Law, Saint Paul MN. All Rights
Minnesota Lawyer representing Personal Injury, Car / Auto Accident, Workers Compensation, Medical Malpractice, Social Security Disability claims.
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