Two days ago, in a win for Minnesota employees, the Minnesota Court of Appeals declared that whistleblower protection under Minn. Stat. § 181.932 extends back six years. The case, which was before the appellate panel pursuant to remand by the Minnesota Supreme Court, is still progressing its way through the courts, with the plaintiff finally set to get a jury trial on claims brought over four years ago.

Minneapolis Employment Law Lawyers

Minnesota’s whistleblower statute protects employees who are wrongfully terminated (or suffer other adverse employment action) at work because of reporting or otherwise opposing their employer’s unlawful conduct. The statute’s goal is to provide remedy for workers by allowing them to pursue a civil lawsuit against the employer that illegally discharged them. The statute reads:

Subdivision 1. Prohibited action.

An employer shall not discharge, discipline, threaten, otherwise discriminate against, or penalize an employee regarding the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location, or privileges of employment because:

(1) the employee, or a person acting on behalf of an employee, in good faith, reports a violation, suspected violation, or planned violation of any federal or state law or common law or rule adopted pursuant to law to an employer or to any governmental body or law enforcement official;

(2) the employee is requested by a public body or office to participate in an investigation, hearing, inquiry;

(3) the employee refuses an employer’s order to perform an action that the employee has an objective basis in fact to believe violates any state or federal law or rule or regulation adopted pursuant to law, and the employee informs the employer that the order is being refused for that reason;

(4) the employee, in good faith, reports a situation in which the quality of health care services provided by a health care facility, organization, or health care provider violates a standard established by federal or state law or a professionally recognized national clinical or ethical standard and potentially places the public at risk of harm;

(5) a public employee communicates the findings of a scientific or technical study that the employee, in good faith, believes to be truthful and accurate, including reports to a governmental body or law enforcement official; or

(6) an employee in the classified service of state government communicates information that the employee, in good faith, believes to be truthful and accurate, and that relates to state services, including the financing of state services, to:

(i) a legislator or the legislative auditor; or

(ii) a constitutional officer.

The disclosures protected pursuant to this section do not authorize the disclosure of data otherwise protected by law.

Subd. 2.Disclosure of identity.

The identity of any employee making a report to a governmental body or law enforcement official under subdivision 1, clause (1) or (4), is private data on individuals as defined in section 13.02. The identity of an employee providing information under subdivision 1, clause (2), is private data on individuals if:

(1) the employee would not have provided the information without an assurance that the employee’s identity would remain private, because of a concern that the employer would commit an action prohibited under subdivision 1 or that the employee would be subject to some other form of retaliation; or

(2) the state agency, statewide system, or political subdivision reasonably believes that the employee would not have provided the data because of that concern.

If the disclosure is necessary for prosecution, the identity of the employee may be disclosed but the employee shall be informed prior to the disclosure.

Subd. 3.False disclosures.

This section does not permit an employee to make statements or disclosures knowing that they are false or that they are in reckless disregard of the truth.

Subd. 4.Collective bargaining rights.

This section does not diminish or impair the rights of a person under any collective bargaining agreement.

Subd. 5.Confidential information

This section does not permit disclosures that would violate federal or state law or diminish or impair the rights of any person to the continued protection of confidentiality of communications provided by common law

Minn. Stat. § 181.932 (2014)

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Practicing in civil rights litigation, we see a lot of police officers abuse their power. Unfortunately, there are many reasons police misconduct usually stays out of the public spotlight. There are myriad systemic barriers to holding bad cops accountable for discrimination, excessive force, illegal search and seizures,  unlawful arrests, and more. They include:  gutting of civilian review authorities, failed oversight, use of squad and body cameras, non prosecution of officers by prosecutors, the militarization of police, powerful police unions, pocketed arbitrators, institutionalized racism, victims with criminal records, and many others.

Minnesota Civil Rights Attorneys

The problems are on such a broad scale and are so layered and complicated that piercing through all of them would require a complete overhaul to the way we police our law enforcement and govern ourselves. It seems, however, that such an overhaul will only come if we reach a point where, as a public, we stop forgetting about the problem between events that garner national media attention. We must start regularly and continuously demanding answers and changes from our governments, prosecutors, judges, and politicians.

Although the courtroom is one venue to get justice for those such as Michael Brown (Ferguson, Missouri) and Eric Garner (New York City) (and we’re proud to be a part of that) we must also focus on prevention.  If we truly want to stop these things from happening, we must care enough to do more than have periodic outrage.

The most immediate way to get involved is to get active in city-level politics. Attend board meetings; talk to your city council representative; get involved in the elections of prosecutors and police administrators; inform the media; request data pursuant to Freedom of Information Act; …do what it takes to become knowledgeable and involved.

The events of the past few months–and ones similar to them–are about more than those cops and their victims. They are about who we are as a nation. They’re about who we are as people and how we treat each other. We must acknowledge that we have a national problem. And once we do, we must not knowingly allow those who wear the badges of our governments to inflict injustice. We must get involved.

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Madia Law 

CONTACT:
Attorney Joshua Newville
office: 612.349.2743
cell: 651.210.7135
joshuanewville@madialaw.com

–FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—

(Sioux Falls, SD, Nov. 14, 2014)—South Dakota’s marriage equality lawsuit is moving forward after United States Judge Karen Schreier rejected the State’s motion for the case to be dismissed on Friday.

The Court heard arguments in Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard on October 17 in Sioux Falls. The Attorney General’s Office argued that a 2006 8th Circuit Court of Appeals case required dismissal. Plaintiffs’ attorney Joshua Newville argued that case isn’t on point and that the controlling decision is United States v. Windsor, the 2013 Supreme Court case that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

In a 28-page opinion, issued Friday afternoon, Judge Schreier agreed with the plaintiffs, writing, “Given the subsequent developments recognized almost uniformly by federal courts following the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor, Baker is no longer binding authority. Although Bruning explained that sexual orientation is not a suspect class, it did not address whether marriage is a fundamental right. Thus, those cases do not foreclose relief on plaintiffs’ due process and equal protection claims.”

The Court will now consider the legitimacy of the marriage bans. Judge Schreier ordered state officials to respond to the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment within ten days. The State must explain why its refusal to wed same-sex couples and its refusal to recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples do not violate U.S. Constitution guarantees of due process and equal protection.

“Every reason the State offers to support these discriminatory laws has already been wholly rejected by the vast majority of courts to consider this issue,” said Newville. “The Supreme Court’s decision to let stand four recent appellate rulings striking down similar marriage bans also bolsters our case. The days of South Dakota proudly discriminating against these families are numbered,” he added.

The plaintiffs filed their motion for summary judgment in early July. Debra Voigt, one of the lawyers for the couples, said, “We are all very happy this case is moving forward and are encouraged by the Court’s ruling today. We are optimistic that this is one step closer to marriage equality here in South Dakota.”

The six plaintiff families are from across the state and include veterans, nurses, a stay-at-home mom, a truck driver, a couple who’s been together 30 years, and couples with children and grandchildren. “The law requires South Dakota to treat these families equally and with same dignity and respect it gives families with different-sex couples,” said Newville.

Plaintiff Clay Schweitzer of Rapid City said, “My husband Jeremy [Coller] and I were both born and raised in South Dakota. We love it here. South Dakota is where we met, were we have built our lives together, and where Jeremy accepted my proposal in the Black Hills. We look forward to the day when South Dakota treats our family equally to all others.”

While the Court dismissed Plaintiffs’ right-to-travel claim, Newville explained: “We believe that South Dakota’s discriminatory marriage scheme violates the law in a number of ways, including an unconstitutional infringement on the right to relocate within the United States. While the Court disagreed with our reasoning on that claim, the Judge did agree with the over 50 other courts that ultimately ruled in favor of marriage equality in the last 15 months that these couples’ have presented valid equal protection and due process claims.”

The couples are represented by four attorneys:

  • Lead counsel Joshua Newville of the Minneapolis firm Madia Law LLC. Newville is the civil rights attorney who filed the lawsuit on May 22, 2014. He also represents seven families in a similar challenge to North Dakota’s marriage equality bans, which he filed on June 6, 2014.
  • South Dakota attorney Debra Voigt of Burd and Voigt Law Offices in Sioux Falls. Voigt is an active member of her community and has practiced family law in South Dakota for nearly 20 years.
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights attorneys Shannon Minter and Christopher Stoll. NCLR, a LGBT advocacy organization based in San Francisco, has been instrumental in the national fight for marriage equality, including the 10th Circuit Idaho case that was the first in the country after Windsor to have marriage equality upheld by a federal appellate court. Minter and Stoll are also working with Newville on the North Dakota case.

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In August 2012, I wrote about the problem with the City of Minneapolis dispensing with civilian review of police officers’ conduct. That year, the Minneapolis Police officers’ unionVelma Korbel and Susan Segal collectively took a nail gun to the coffin of the now-defunct Civilian Review Authority.

 

Over two years later, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges penned an open letter acknowledging that Minneapolis has some bad police officers and that there is a strained relationship between Minneapolis police and parts of the community. Mayor Hodges also reiterated her commitment to civilian review and police officer accountability in general. In doing so, she mentioned the need for the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department to change, which I wholeheartedly agree with. (For example, this summer,  I spoke with watchdog.org about the militarization of police and the effect it can have on the culture of a police department.)

In the end, Mayor Hodges proposed several things to establish such a culture changes, including the use of body cameras by Minneapolis Police officers. Use of body cameras by those  we give a badge and a gun and entrust to protect us should be celebrated as advancements in both technology and accountability. Body cameras protect the majority of police officers, who have hard jobs but carry out their duties with integrity and professionalism. They also protect civilians who, quite frankly, are too often victims of illegal conduct by bad cops.

Unfortunately, some police officers don’t like the use of technology that helps ensure such accountability. Last week, in what amounts to transparent retaliation against Mayor Hodges for her extremely reasonable position, officers of the Minneapolis Police Department sent a photo to KSTP News of Mayor Hodges posing with a North Minneapolis get-out-the-vote volunteer. The officers declared that Mayor Hodges, who was pointing at the volunteer, was flashing a “known gang sign.” The nation collectively exhaled. 

#Pointergate–as the scandal has come to be known–barely begins to highlight the significant barrier police unions have become to police officer accountability. The true power of these unions is demonstrated by their consistent and often successful defense of some truly bad cops. Officers like the Metro Gang Strike ForceSherry Appledorn & Joe WillBeating of Derryl JenkinsShooting Death of Dominic Felder deserve to be pushed out of the police department before their behavior and attitudes result in such significant civil rights violations, not protected by their peers out of blind allegiance. Ultimately, more so than #pointergate, the unions’ successful lobbying to gut the Civilian Review Authority demonstrates why it is a real barrier to the public’s effort to hold bad police officers accountable.

Litigation cannot be the only check on bad cops’ conduct. Madia Law fully supports Mayor Hodges’ position on officer accountability and police-community relations. It is time to reverse the trend. Transparency is better for both police officers and citizens.

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Honeywell is defending itself from a federal disability discrimination and genetic information lawsuit filed by the EEOC. According to the allegations made by the EEOC and the two Minnesota employees, the company demanded that the employees and their family members submit to medical testing or else face monetary penalties.

Minnesota Disability Discrimination Lawyers

The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act prohibit adverse employment action on account of disability or genetic information that does not affect an employee’s ability to do their job or require accommodation by the employer that would cause undue hardship. [click to continue…]

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Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure contains an interesting and nuanced option for civil defendants to settle a case. Rule 68 states in part, “At least 14 days before the date set for trial, a party defending against a claim may serve on an opposing party an offer to allow judgment on specified terms, with the costs then accrued.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 68(a). Essentially, the defendant may offer the plaintiff a settlement amount to try and end the case.

Here’s the catch for the defendant: if the plaintiff accepts the offer, judgment is entered against the defendant. Similar to a plea bargain in a criminal case, the defendant is admitting liability to avoid going to trial.

Minneapolis Discrimination Lawyers

 

Now, here’s the catch for the plaintiff: if the plaintiff does not accept the offer and takes the case to trial and the jury awards the plaintiff an amount in damages less than the defendant’s offer or no damages at all, the plaintiff must pay for all of the defendant’s costs that were incurred after the offer.

In other words, Fed.R.Civ.P. 68(d). Rule 68 seems to be a double-edged sword when not used strategically. [click to continue…]

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The most recent in a string of such lawsuits, a former Marc Jacobs intern has initiated a class action lawsuit against the fashion designer for failing to pay interns proper minimum wage and overtime wage rates.  Plaintiff Linney Warren sued Marc Jacobs alleging that she often worked 70-hour weeks in May, fetching coffee, moving raw materials between studios, sorting fabrics, fixing patterns, and sewing. Other companies recently hit with similar lawsuits include Fox Entertainment, Lions Gate Entertainment, Coach, and more.

Twin Cities Fair Wage Attorneys

Altogether failing to pay interns who are not receiving legitimate academic or vocational training is an unfair wage practice.  Similarly, failing to give paid interns appropriate minimum wage rates and overtime wage rates violates the Fair Labor Standards Act and comparable state legislation.  In addition to exposing employers to liability, these practices take advantage of young people who don’t fully understand wage and hour law and who are working hard in the infancy of their careers.

 

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Today, the United States Supreme Court denied to review opinions issued by three appellate courts that declared bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The practical effect of the order denying review is that, after the dust settles, 11 additional states will have marriage equality — bringing the total to 30 within the next few months.

For couples living in states without marriage equality, today’s announcement is bittersweet. While the Supreme Court’s inaction is a positive in that it expands the number of states where discrimination in marriage based on sexual orientation is not legal, it means more waiting for those who live in other states.

KMSP-TV

Many of the states without marriage equality also lack legislation that protects gay people from discrimination (for example, in housing and employment). Similarly, many of those states do not provide make it a hate crime to violently target a gay person for no other reason than that person’s sexuality.

Until the Supreme Court (or, alternatively, every appellate court in the country) declares marriage equality to be the law of the land, litigation will continue.

Madia Law is proud to represent thirteen same-sex couples in historic challenges to marriage equality bans in both South Dakota and North Dakota. For those couples, today’s events are a source of optimism about the eventual outcome of their cases. Madia Law will continue to fight on behalf of them and all gay and lesbians who are denied their rights and equal protection under the laws.

KFGO: Attorney Joshua Newville on Supreme Court’s Decision on Same Sex Marriage

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The False Claims Act exists to incentivize whistleblowing in areas such as Medicare fraud. Qui tam whistleblowers (known as “relators”) who bring the government’s attention to fraudulent practices of their employers or other institutions, are rewarded with a percentage of the recovery ranging from 15-30%. Proving the extent of a fraudulent practice can prove difficult, especially when employers go to great lengths to hide those practices.

Yesterday, in a win for whistleblowers and the U.S. government, a federal judge in Tennessee declared that government can extrapolate from a small sample of billing statements to show a significant amount of Medicare fraud.

The decision was especially important because there is relatively little case law on the question of whether extrapolation is an appropriate practice pursuant to the False Claims Act.  The judge ruled that, “[t]he purpose of the FCA, as well as the development and expansion of government programs as to which it may be employed, support the use of statistical sampling in complex FCA actions where a claim-by-claim review is impracticable,” and added, “[i]f Congress intended to preclude statistical sampling from being used in this context, it has had ample opportunity to have that intention reflected in the language of the FCA.” [click to continue…]

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In an alarming video posted to YouTube this week, two St. Paul police officers violently arrested and tazed a black man who was simply waiting in the skyway to pickup his children from New Horizon’s Academy. The CityPages reports that the man is Chris Lollie; his mugshot is posted below.

Officers. M. Johnson and Bruce Schmidt filed a report that indicated Lollie had refused to leave the area; paradoxically, the report made no mention of why Lollie wasn’t allowed in the skyway. The officers inexplicably  charged Lollie with three crimes, all of which were dismissed. Based on the video and the available information, a lawsuit against the officers seems highly likely.

Madia Law, who does not represent Lollie, prosecutes lawsuits against police officers in Minnesota and Wisconsin who violate the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by performing unreasonable searches and seizures, unlawful arrests, or using excessive force.  Additionally, Madia Law holds government officials accountable for racism, sexism, sexual orientation discrimination, and more, by bringing suit for violations of the 14th Amendment.

See also: April 2012: Madia Law Wins Jury Trial in Federal Court for Excessive Force By St. Paul Police

See also: June 2014: Madia Law Jury Trial Verdict: Officer Violated 4th Amendment 

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Multiple Allegations of Civil Rights Violations in Ferguson, Missouri

August 14, 2014

Since the police shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old black male in Ferguson, Missouri last week, the town of 21,000 people has become a focal point in the country’s discussion of excessive force and police misconduct. Within days of the shooting, lawyers announced that they were looking at civil rights claims related to the shooting […]

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Madia Law Seeks to Bypass Trial in North Dakota Marriage Equality Lawsuit

July 23, 2014

Madia Law filed a motion for summary judgment Tuesday in the historic lawsuit challenging North Dakota’s ban on same-sex marriage. From the Guardian Newspaper: A lawyer filed a motion late Tuesday calling on a judge to rule on the legality of gay marriage in North Dakota, the last US state to face a challenge to […]

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Wrongfully Terminated MN Employees Get Jury Trial

July 14, 2014

In just a few short weeks, an amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) that will provide a right to a jury trial for claims arising under that law will go into effect.   The MHRA  prohibits discrimination and retaliation for opposing such discrimination in a variety of contexts, including public and private employment, […]

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June 2014: Madia Law Jury Trial Verdict: Officer Violated 4th Amendment

July 1, 2014

On June 24, 2014, after a two-day trial, a federal jury found that officer Robert Thunder violated Madia Law Client Michael Flowers’ constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Madia Law Attorney Ashwin Madia represented Mr. Flowers at trial, which was presided over by Chief Judge Michael Davis of the United States […]

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June 2014: Madia Law Files Historic Marriage Equality Lawsuit in North Dakota

June 8, 2014

On June 6, 2014, Attorney Joshua Newville of Madia Law filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven same-sex couples in North Dakota. The lawsuit, Ramsay, et al. v. Dalrymple, et al., 14-CV-57, was filed in United States District Court in Fargo, North Dakota. Like Madia Law’s filing in South Dakota two weeks ago, the lawsuit against North […]

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May 2014: Madia Law Files Historic Lawsuit Challenging South Dakota Same-Sex Marriage Ban

May 29, 2014

On May 22, 2014, on behalf of twelve South Dakota residents, Madia Law Attorney Joshua Newville filed a federal lawsuit in United States District Court in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of South Dakota’s statutory and constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Plaintiffs Jennie and […]

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May 2014: Madia Law Files False Claims Act Suit in Wisconsin federal court

May 18, 2014

On behalf of the United States and the State of Wisconsin, Madia Law has filed a federal qui tam action in the Eastern District of Wisconsin federal District Court.  The filing alleges Medicare fraud against the government by multiple corporate Defendants and medical doctors in eastern Wisconsin.  Pending potential intervention by the United States Attorney’s Office, the […]

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MHRA Amendment Secures Jury Trials for Minnesota Discrimination Victims

May 14, 2014

Yesterday, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed into law an amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act that will ensure victims of discrimination and retaliation are entitled to a jury trial.  The bill, SF2322, was passed by the House and Senate in previous weeks and will go into effect on August 1, 2014. Previously, there was […]

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May 2014: Madia Law Files Class Action Pay Discrimination Lawsuit Against NeuroScience, Inc and Pharmasan Labs, Inc.

May 9, 2014

On Friday, May 2, Madia Law filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The lawsuit, filed against NeuroScience, Inc. and Pharmasan Labs, Inc., alleges pay discrimination on the basis of sex/gender. Defendants NeuroScience and Pharmasan Labs advertise themselves as being committed to delivering personalized health care […]

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May 2014: Newville to Speak on Employee Rights at “Argument of the Month Club”

April 29, 2014

The Argument of the Month Club describes itself as, “The Men’s Forum for Catholic Apologetics.”  Started 14 years ago, the wildly successful forum now attracts more than 500 men to its monthly discussions.  Tackling tough and wide-ranging topics, the group’s mission is to enlighten both Catholics and non-Catholics in order to better teach and defend the […]

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