Federal District Court – Minnesota

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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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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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 District Court for the District of Minnesota.

MN Police Misconduct Lawyers

Mr. Flowers is a 51-year-old disabled black male who has Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (“AIDS”), a serious and potentially deadly condition that has an extreme effect on daily life activity and enables him to receive “limited mobility” designation on his Minnesota drivers license. A designation of “limited mobility” allows for reduced fare with Metro Transit.  [click to continue…]

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On Monday, Madia Law filed suit in United States District Court on behalf of Plaintiff Tammy Liddle against Bloomington Police Officer Jeff Thibert.  Ms. Liddle’s federal lawsuit (14-CV-431-JNE/JSM) alleges unreasonable search and seizure, unlawful arrest, and excessive force.  Ms. Liddle is also in possession of squad cam video of the subject incident.

Bloomington City Hall Bloomington City Hall

 

Below is a copy of the Complaint, with some names redacted: [click to continue…]

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Historically, owners and managers of strip clubs have adhered to a business model that classifies exotic dancers (often called “strippers”) as independent contractors rather than employees.  By classifying dancers as independent contractors, employers are able to reap the financial benefits of having dancers work for them (and, as a result, turning a profit) while simultaneously avoiding having to pay the dancers for their work, paying into social security, and potentially paying unemployment insurance and workers compensation.  This business model, however, may be quickly eroding.

Minnesota and Wisconsin Employment Law Attorneys

In November, 2012, a federal court approved a roughly $13 million settlement in a nationwide class-action lawsuit against 16 strip clubs which were classifying their dancers as independent contractors.  Stephanie Hoops, Spearmint Rhino Exotic Dancers Settle Suit For Nearly $13 Million, The Huffington Post (November 11, 2012 1:32 PM) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/14/spearmint-rhino-exotic-dancers-settle-suit_n_2128458.html.  Moreover, recent court decisions have nearly unanimously ruled that exotic dancers are employees, not independent contractors.  See Hart v. Rick’s Cabaret International, Inc., 2013 WL 4822199 (2013); Clincy v. Galardi South Enterprises, Inc., 808 F.Supp.2d 1326 (2011); Thompson v. Linda And A, Inc. 779 F.Supp.2d 139 (2011).  That notwithstanding, there are still many strip clubs which continue to classify their dancers as independent contractors. [click to continue…]

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On behalf of the United States and multiple State governments, Madia Law has filed a federal qui tam action in federal District Court.  The filing alleges fraud against the government by multiple corporate Defendants.  Pending potential intervention by the United States, the suit remains under seal for at least 60 days.

In a qui tam action, a private party known as a relator brings a whistleblower suit on behalf of the government; thus, the government, not the relator, is considered the plaintiff.  If the action is successful in prosecuting the fraud, the relator receives an award, generally based on a portion of the amount recovered for the government.  The False Claims Act, Title 31 U.S.C. § 3279 et seq., authorizes qui tam actions and requires that parties wishing to bring such actions retain counsel.

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Lessors, Inc. is a national trucking company based in Eagan, Minnesota.  On October 16, 2013, on behalf of current and former Lessors employees, Madia Law filed a class and collective action wage and hour lawsuit against Lessors in United States District Court. The plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and other employees, allege that Lessors has purposely denied employees overtime pay.

Minnesota Overtime Lawyers, Minneapolis Employment Attorneys, Wage and Hour Law Firm

The Fair Labor Standards Act and the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act both require higher wage rates for hours worked over 40 and 48, respectively. Although there are exceptions to these rules, Plaintiffs allege that Lessors has purposefully misclassified them and other employees as falling under such an exception in order to avoid paying them the overtime wage rates for which they are entitled. The following is a summary of the allegations in the Complaint, which is titled Luis Felix, Donald Knutson, and Juan Vazquez-Perez, individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated individuals and the Proposed Minnesota Rule 23 Class, Case No. 13-CV-2854 (DWF/JJG). [click to continue…]

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One and a half years ago, DelShawn Crawford Sr. was shot and killed by Minneapolis police officers in his girlfriend’s home.  On behalf of Crawford’s estate, Madia Law has filed a wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit against two Minneapolis police officers, Laura Turner and Chad Meyer.  What follows is a summary of the allegations against the police officers in the Complaint filed on September 19 in United States District Court.

KMSP-TV

On May 12, 2012, Delshawn Crawford was spending a “family night” with his girlfriend Brandy Lewis, her children, her children’s friends, and cousins of Ms. Lewis.  At approximately 1:30 AM, following the family gathering, there were still seven individuals in Ms. Lewis’ home.  Mr. Crawford and Ms. Lewis engaged in a verbal argument; Ms. Lewis continued to clean the home while they were arguing. [click to continue…]

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Madia Law filed a class and collective action lawsuit in February against Regency Beauty Institute (a national for-profit cosmetology school) on behalf of current and former employees in Regency’s Admissions Department seeking unpaid overtime wages.  On July 15, U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank granted Plaintiffs’ Motion for Conditional Class Certification.

Call Center

The five named plaintiffs in the suit worked as Admissions Representatives at Regency; their job was to make phone calls to prospective students regarding Regency and attempt to enroll them in the school.  They allege that they were not properly paid overtime pay during their time at Regency and that, when they raised the issue with Regency leadership, they were told not to pursue the issue or “burn bridges.”  The lawsuit is described in detail here.  Since the lawsuit was filed in February, eleven additional Admissions Representatives have joined.

The Court’s decision allows Plaintiffs to notify – through a Court authorized notice – all potential class members of the existence of the lawsuit and their ability to participate.  Additionally, the Court’s decision mandates that Regency post notice of the lawsuit at its workplace so that current employees may also make informed decisions regarding participation in the suit.

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SCOTUS Kills DOMA and Prop 8; Sexual Orientation Discrimination Lives On

June 28, 2013

It’s been a busy week for employment law and civil rights.  The impact of the past week’s Supreme Court decisions on these two areas of law cannot be understated.  The Voting Rights Act was gutted, killing protections put in place to prevent discrimination at the ballot box.  The Civil Rights Act was substantially weakened, stripping […]

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Supreme Court Weakens Title VII Protections

June 24, 2013

From Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in today’s Supreme Court Decision in Vance v. Ball State, which narrowly defined “supervisor” so as to limit employer liability (thus, employee protection) in workplace harassment cases: Exhibiting remarkable resistance to the thrust of our prior decisions, workplace realities, and the EEOC’s Guidance, the Court embraces a position that relieves scores of […]

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Effective E-Discovery in Employment Law Litigation

June 20, 2013

In employment lawsuits, preserving, finding, and utilizing electronic evidence can mean the difference between winning, winning big, or losing on summary judgment.  Electronic discovery (“e-discovery”) is an important source of critical evidence that can help you establish proof of discrimination, retaliation, and pretext.  Because such evidence can be digitally buried in complex servers and information […]

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April 2013: $70,000 Settlement in Police Brutality Suit Against Minneapolis Officer

April 18, 2013

The ability to safely, calmly, and professionally interact with the public without violence is an intrinsic and basic part of law enforcement.  In a case settled this past Friday with the City of Minneapolis, Madia Law client Ernest Abbott alleged that on November 12, 2009, Minneapolis Police Officer Christopher Steward showed a lack of those […]

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March 2013: Madia Law Files Overtime Class Action Lawsuit Against Regency Beauty Institute

March 24, 2013

The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is a federal law that, among other things, prohibits employers from failing to pay overtime to its employees and attempting to avoid paying overtime by classifying employees as “salaried” who should, by law, actually be paid for each hour worked.  For such employees, time worked over forty hours must […]

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November 2012: Madia Law Sues Accounting Firm on Behalf of Learning Disabled Accountant

November 22, 2012

In November 2012, Madia Law sued a Twin Cities accounting firm on behalf of a learning disabled accountant. The young accountant, who has suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”) since he was a child, disclosed his disability to his supervisor at the time of his first performance evaluation.   Despite being fully capable of […]

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Suing Hospitals When Doctors Sexually Harass

October 29, 2012

A San Diego hospital and doctor have been sued by an 18-year-old intern who alleges sexual harassment, sexual battery and assault, hostile work environment, and negligence.   The plaintiff, who was only 17 at the time he began an internship at San Diego Memorial Hospital, alleges that cardiologist David Hicks sexually harassed and assaulted him […]

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Video Captures St. Paul Police Brutality

September 11, 2012

St. Paul Police Officer Jesse Zilge is at home this week, pending the results of an expedited internal affairs investigation.  Video uploaded to Youtube on August 28th shows Zilge kicking an unarmed man in what appears to be either the face, throat, or chest.  While the video clearly raises concern with regard to the officer’s […]

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Employment Law Imbalance: How To Avoid Losing Before Trial

August 23, 2012

As published in the Harvard Law & Policy Review, Kevin M. Clermont & Stewart J. Schwab observed that from 1979-2006, plaintiffs bringing employment law matters (discrimination, wrongful termination, etc) in federal court won only 15% of the time. When paired with the observation that plaintiffs in non job-related matters won 51% of the time, that 15% figure is stunning. […]

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Video Technology Helps Police … And Victims of Police Misconduct

July 3, 2012

Minnesota police departments, like many across the nation, are rapidly expanding their use of video technology by individual police officers. Gone is the day when officers were limited to using traditional COPS-style dash-cams to record what was happening directly in front of their police cruiser. Individual officers can now wear cameras on their heads, which allow them […]

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