Clausnitzer v. Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company - No. 20120107
Tim Clausnitzer appeals from a district court judgment dismissing his lawsuit against Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company alleging lawful activity discrimination under the North Dakota Human Rights Act.
Clausnitzer was employed by Tesoro as its manager of maintenance. On March 24, 2009, Clausnitzer left the refinery in Mandan during a workday and drove to Bismarck in a Tesoro company vehicle where he was involved in a minor traffic accident. Clausnitzer was cited for careless driving and released. Clausnitzer decided to take the rest of the day off of work, went home, and drank a vodka tonic. Clausnitzer then left his home in the company vehicle and was pulled over by a police officer who asked him to perform a breath test. The test indicated Clausnitzer had a blood alcohol content of .058 percent, which is lower than the legal limit of .08 percent but higher than the .04 percent limit for driving company vehicles imposed by a Tesoro policy. The police officer allowed Clausnitzer to leave but informed Tesoro about the incident. Tesoro gave Clausnitzer the option of retiring or being fired for violating the company's policy. Clausnitzer retired.
Clausnitzer sued Tesoro claiming lawful activity discrimination under the Human Rights Act, which provides in N.D.C.C. § 14-02.4-03 that it is a discriminatory practice for an employer to discharge an employee because of "participation in lawful activity off the employer's premises during nonworking hours which is not in direct conflict with the essential business-related interests of the employer." The district court granted Tesoro's motion for summary judgment dismissing the lawsuit. The court ruled Clausnitzer was on Tesoro's "premises" when he was pulled over in a company vehicle in Bismarck and his actions conflicted with Tesoro's "essential business-related interests."
On appeal, Clausnitzer argues the district court erred in dismissing his lawsuit because the term "premises" does not include personal property and because his actions did not contravene Tesoro's essential business-related interests.