Hostile Work Environment

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.

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The MHRA  prohibits discrimination and retaliation for opposing such discrimination in a variety of contexts, including public and private employment, housing, education, public accommodation, and more. Protected classes under the MHRA include race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, status with regarding to public assistance, sexual orientation, and age. [click to continue…]

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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.

Minnesota Jury Trial Attorneys

Previously, there was uncertainty over whether a victim of workplace discrimination, harassment, or retaliation would receive a jury trial, and to what level the jury’s verdict was entitled to deference.  Due to a legal intersection of federal, state, common, and statutory law, and depending on what claims were brought and in what venue, there were often instances were individuals who have been the target of illegal activity by their employer have only been allowed a trial by judge.   [click to continue…]

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The myriad surveys, articles, and headlines are clear: whether you are aware of it or not, your employers—both prospective and current—are monitoring (and, in some instances, controlling) your social media presence. [1] [2] [3].  As long as management-side employment law attorneys continue to tout a parade of horrible to their clients regarding social media, this trend will continue.

There are and have been countless warnings in the form of online articles, workplace policies, and various other friendly reminders: think twice before using social media to broadcast your stream of consciousness via poorly-thought status updates and 140-character snark-ridden commentary.  Yet, employees continue to tank their present or prospective employment by making atrociously bad decisions relating to social media. [4] [5].

Minnesota and Wisconsin Employment Law Attorneys

It is imperative that employees begin to grapple with the reality of social media: absolutely nothing is as private as you think. [click to continue…]

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Employment disputes can be tumultuous, often leading to a “your word against mine” situation.  However, when one of those parties is a large corporation and the other is just a single employee, the employee can be at a slight disadvantage in terms of the weight given to on their recollection of events by the judge and/or jury. Because of this, the use of an investigator can offer a critical advantage in an employment law case.

Minnesota Wrongful Termination Lawyers

You can be assured that the employer is doing their due diligence and attempting to uncover everything that they can about the employee and his or her time with the company.   It is in the employee’s and their attorneys’ best interests to do the same. [click to continue…]

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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:

Minnesota Employment Harassment Lawyers

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 employers of responsibility for the behavior of the supervisors they employ. Trumpeting the virtues of simplicity and administrability, the Court restricts supervisor status to those with power to take tangible employment actions. In so restricting the definition of supervisor, the Court once again shuts from sight the “robust protection against workplace discrimination Congress intended Title VII to secure.”

Regrettably, the Court has seized upon Vance’s thin case to narrow the definition of supervisor, and thereby manifestly limit Title VII’s protections against workplace harassment. Not even Ball State, the defendant-employer in this case, has advanced the restrictive definition the Court adopts. See supra, at 5. Yet the Court, insistent on constructing artificial categories where context should be key, proceeds on an immoderate and unrestrained course to corral Title VII. Congress has, in the recent past, intervened to correct this Court’s wayward interpretations of Title VII. See Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, 123 Stat. 5, superseding Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U. S. 618 (2007). See also Civil Rights Act of 1991, 105 Stat.1071, superseding in part, Lorance v. AT&T Technologies, Inc., 490 U. S. 900 (1989); Martin v. Wilks, 490 U. S. 755 (1989); Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio, 490 U. S. 642 (1989); and Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U. S. 228 (1989). The ball is once again in Congress’ court to correct the error into which this Court has fallen, and to restore the robust protections against workplace harassment the Court weakens today.

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Madia Law settled a shocking case of sexual harassment and workplace intimidation that eventually led to the Plaintiff developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.


A female employee, “Mary”, was sexually harassed and intimidated by her male supervisor. Despite repeated attempts by Mary and others to report the supervisor’s behavior, he remained employed for nearly two years because a department manager repeatedly refused to take any action.  The supervisor’s constant harassment and terrorizing of Mary had a devastating effect on her life.

On Mary’s behalf, Madia Law sued the employer approximately one year ago, charging violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act and common law infliction of emotional distress.  The suit has now settled for $125,000.  A summary of the events leading to the case follows:  [click to continue…]

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Madia Law, representing a woman who worked at a Twin Cities technology company, has initiated a sex discrimination lawsuit against the company pursuant to the Minnesota Human Rights Act.  Just prior to the Plaintiff’s hire, the company (which has been in business for decades) employed dozens of men and not a single woman.

In Fall 2012, the Plaintiff commenced employment as a department manager. Around the same time, the Defendant hired two other women. During her interview, a senior-level executive told the Plaintiff that although he was willing to hire her, the company had bad past experiences with women and “doesn’t like to hire” them.  Shortly after starting, the Plaintiff was told that she would have to “prove” herself by, “doing better than any man” if she wanted to keep her job; she was also repeatedly told that she was, “at a disadvantage” because she was a woman. [click to continue…]

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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 and that the hospital failed to adequate address a pattern of sexual harassment at the hospital.

In Minnesota, hospitals and clinics that receive complaints of sexual harassment by doctors (either from employees or patients) have many reasons to err on the side of caution when deciding whether or not to discipline such doctors.  In addition to employment law claims, hospitals may be subject to a tort action for negligent retention of the doctor if the same alleged harasser goes on to sexually harass and/or assault another employee or patient.  Further, there are significant protections under Minnesota law for healthcare employers who take such preventative actions as to remove the doctor’s employment and/or privileges to practice.  [click to continue…]

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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. Questions as to why there is such an imbalance in employment law compared to other areas of law have been the focus of many journalists, lawyers and academics. But for attorneys who represent plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases, there is one key factor worth focusing on: properly preparing a case to survive motions for dismissal, particularly summary judgement motions.

http://www.hlpronline.com/Vol3.1/Clermont-Schwab_HLPR.pdf

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In Bradwell v. Illinois, (U.S. 1873), the Supreme Court declared that allowing a woman to practice law would surely destroy her femininity. According to the 8-1 decision, law is a man’s profession and  women simply aren’t well-suited for such rigor. While that may seem archaic, it wouldn’t be until 1971 that the Court invalidated such discrimination by government against women. Reed v. Reed, (U.S. 1971). And while the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and various other laws have sought to end such discrimination, today’s United States women make only 78 cents for each dollar made by their male counterparts.

Although Bradwell was decided 140 years ago, there are those who believe such sentiments are still alive and well within some industries. In a federal lawsuit against Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, Ellen Pao has prompted a discussion regarding whether such a culture pervades Silicon Valley.  In her three-count Complaint, Pao alleges gender discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and retaliation; the suit also makes reference to purported discrimination and harassment against multiple female employees of the firm, including assistants and other junior partners. Some highlights from the Complaint that suggest Pao’s allegations are broader than her personal circumstances: Read More . . .

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Minnesota Supreme Court: Hostile Work Environment Sex Discrimination can occur even without Sexual Harassment

May 16, 2012

LaMont v. Independent School District #728 (Minn. 2012):  The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled today that a hostile work environment claim under the Minnesota Human Rights Act may be based on conduct that is based on sex, even if the conduct is not sexual.

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Federal District Court Allows Sexual Harassment Claim to Proceed to Trial

May 7, 2012

Mehl v. PortaCo, Inc. and Timothy Wilson (D. Minn. 2012):  A federal district court in Minnesota denied almost all of PortaCo, Inc.’s motion for summary judgment and allowed Cassandra Mehl to proceed to trial on her claims of sexual harassment under Title VII and the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

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Eighth Circuit reverses district court and finds constructive discharge in race discrimination case

February 28, 2012

Sanders v. Lee County School District, No. 10-3240 (8th Cir. 2012).  An Arkansas jury found in favor of plaintiff Sharon Sanders on her Title VII claims of race discrimination and constructive discharge.  The jury awarded $10,000 in compensatory damages for race discrimination, $60,825 in back and front pay damages for her constructive discharge, and $8,000 […]

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Feb. 2012: Madia Law beats City’s motion and forces settlement to police officer pushed out because he was gay

February 22, 2012

For nearly three years, Sean Lathrop was a star of the St. Cloud Police Department.  Known as the “Golden Boy,” Officer Lathrop earned superlative performance evaluations, garnered high recommendations from community members, and quickly advanced to positions of responsibility. Officer Lathrop’s ascent within the Department came to an abrupt end on May 12, 2009, when […]

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Mar. 2011: Madia Law beats summary judgment motion brought by one of MN’s biggest law firms; settles case for retaliation victim

March 18, 2011

“Sam” worked as a salesman for several years at the same company. On occasion, he heard his supervisor and colleagues use anti-Semitic slurs in the workplace. Sam sent a very polite email stating that he had family members who died in the Holocaust and would like it if the comments stopped. All of a sudden, […]

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Feb. 2011: Madia Law defeats summary judgment motion and settles case on behalf of sexual harassment victim

February 18, 2011

Madia Law represented “Jennifer” (name changed for confidentiality reasons), a young woman who was sexually harassed by her supervisor of a period of months. Jennifer’s supervisor: repeatedly bragged to her about his sexual endurance; made vulgar comments about her physical appearance; turned innocent conversations into sexual innuendo; told Jennifer that she should leave her fiancee […]

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The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act makes it easier to sue for unlawful employment discrimination

December 15, 2010

Congress passed the LLFPA to reverse the Supreme Court’s 2007 holding in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Inc.    In that case, Justice Alito led a 5-4 majority in concluding that Ledbetter could not sue Goodyear under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for gender based pay discrimination that she had experienced […]

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May 2009: Introducing Madia Law

May 1, 2009

Dear Friends, I am excited to inform you that I am starting a new business venture, Madia Law LLC – a dynamic and aggressive law firm that will serve Minnesota individuals and small businesses.

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