Minnesota State District Court

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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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.

Minnesota Jury Trial Attorneys

 

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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Madia Law settled an age discrimination case on behalf of “Joan” after defeating her former employer’s motion for summary judgment.

The terms are confidential pursuant to the parties’ settlement agreement.

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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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Madia Law obtained a successful jury trial verdict on behalf of a Minneapolis-based small business last week.  On Tuesday, a Hennepin County jury returned its verdict in Stallions, LLC d/b/a/ Club New York vs. St. Croix Plumbing and Drain Cleaning, LLC f/k/a St. Croix Mechanical, LLC and Steinkraus Plumbing, Inc.  (Case No. 27-CV-11-16645).

The jury held that Defendant St. Croix Plumbing and Drain Cleaning was negligent in performing plumbing work on the Minneapolis Lumber Exchange Building.  The jury found that, as a direct result of St. Croix’s negligence, Club New York was damaged on June 25, 2010 when a catastrophic plumbing failure resulted in major flooding to the building and to Club New York.  The jury awarded Club New York $298,000.00.Club New York June 25, 2010 Club New York, June 25, 2010

Hennepin County Judge Laurie Miller oversaw the five-day trial, where Club New York was represented by Madia Law Attorneys Ashwin Madia and Joshua Newville.  The jury found that Defendant Steinkraus Plumbing, represented by Attorney Teri Benston of Liberty Mutual, was not negligent.

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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 systems, it is important that your employment law attorney be as sophisticated as possible during the discovery phase of your employment lawsuit.

Minnesota Employment Law Attorneys

Does your attorney know all the places your employer stores email and other potentially relevant data?  Does your employer’s attorney?  At the onset of litigation, the answer to the first question is a definitive no.  And it may surprise you that the answer to the second question is often the same.  [click to continue…]

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On May 24, 2013, Governor Mark Dayton signed HF 542, a bill adding additional protections for whistleblowers.  The Minnesota Whistleblower Act (MWA) was originally passed in 1987, and the purpose was to prohibit employers from acting in a retaliatory manner against employees who made a good faith report of any federal or state law or rule adopted pursuant to law.[1]  Ambiguities in the language of the statute have allowed for many different interpretations on statutory meaning throughout the years.  In Anderson-Johanningmeier v. Mid Minnesota Women’s Center, Inc., the Minnesota Supreme Court dealt with conflicting case law in determining the applicability of a public policy requirement in relation to whistleblower claims.[2]  The court concluded that public policy requirement relating to all whistleblower claims was not in accordance with the statutory language.  While the additional protections signed into law by Governor Dayton do not deal with the public policy requirement, the additions help to clear up other potential ambiguities within the statute.

Minneapolis Employment Law Lawyers

HF 542 serves two purposes in aiding the original whistleblower act.  First, the new law provides a definitional framework for several key terms that were left for interpretation.  Three sections of § 181.931 have terms that are defined in the new law, in an attempt to reduce conflicting interpretations, and to clearly exemplify the laws intent in protection of whistleblowing reports.  Second the bill expands the scope reported violations that are protected. [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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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 being successful at the job, the young man wanted to be sure his supervisor knew that he thinks, learns, and works in a different way than others, particularly since he noticed a few comments on his evaluation that seemed to signal a concern with the way he processed information and executed tasks. The accountant felt that it would help everyone involved to be aware of his slight disability. But, soon after disclosing his disability and requesting slight accommodation, he was fired.  [click to continue…]

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“Minnesota Lawyer” covers Madia Law’s $1.3 Million Verdict in Breach of Duty Case

October 5, 2012

Minnesota Lawyer covered Madia Law’s recent $1.3 million jury verdict in it’s October issue.  The front-page article includes excerpts of interviews with Ashwin Madia and Susan Gaertner.  

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Minnesota Election Could Mean “Right to Work” Amendment

September 27, 2012

For the first time in almost forty years, Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate of the Minnesota Legislature for the previous two sessions.  Despite the veto power of Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL), Minnesota Republicans made significant strides in the latest sessions–including placement on the ballot of the proposed Voter-ID and anti gay marriage […]

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Aug. 2012: Madia Law Wins $1.3M Jury Verdict in Disability Discrimination Case

September 12, 2012

After a two week trial, a Carver County jury awarded Madia law client Dr. Sam Deweese nearly $1.3M in damages from his former clinic. Dr. Deweese worked as a family practice physician for nearly twenty years at his clinic and earned high praise from his patients.  He devoted his entire working life to the institution, […]

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July 2012: Madia Law Settles Unlawful Deductions Case on Behalf of Physician’s Assistant

August 10, 2012

Madia Law represented “Laura” – a physician’s assistant who was hired by a medical clinic that found Laura through a recruiting agency.  After hiring Laura, the clinic began making deductions from her checks to cover the “recruitment fee” that it paid the agency to find Laura.  In total, the clinic deducted close to $30,000 from […]

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Off-Duty Minneapolis Police Officer Punches Man in Head

June 26, 2012

Minneapolis Police Sergeant David Clifford, 47, is the executive member of the SWAT team and a 19-year department veteran who has twice received the Medal of Valor. Last week, Clifford was charged with felony assault after he punched Brian Vander Lee in the head at Tanners Station in Andover. Clifford’s actions resulted in Vander Lee requiring life […]

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Minnesota Supreme Court: Employees do not need to refer to Minnesota Parental Leave Act when taking medical leave

June 3, 2012

Hansen v. Robert Half Intnt’l (Minn. 2012):  The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled this week that employees taking medical leave from work do not need to mention the Minnesota Parental Leave Act (MPLA) in order to have their jobs protected by the law while on medical leave.

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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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Jan. 2012: Madia Law settles racial discrimination and workers’ compensation retaliation case against Fortune 500 company

January 17, 2012

This was a case in which an Asian American manager was chosen for termination pursuant to a reduction in force by his employer.  In hard economic times, employers sometimes need to cut back in their workforce, and there’s nothing illegal about that.  The issue in this case, though, was that the employer chose this particular […]

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Dec. 2011: Madia Law beats every charge of hospital’s summary judgment motion on behalf of disabled physician

December 13, 2011

A Carver County District Court judge ruled against Lakeview Clinic’s motion for summary judgment and held that Madia Law client Dr. Sam Deweese should be allowed to proceed to trial on each of the seven counts pled in his complaint. Dr. Deweese worked as a family practice physician for nearly twenty years at Lakeview and earned […]

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Sept. 2011: Madia Law wins $93,000 judgment on behalf of small business defrauded by corporation

September 29, 2011

Vermilion Sports, a small business in upstate Minnesota that sold boats and was winding down business operations, was defrauded by a corporation that promised to sell its remaining inventory for a percentage of the profit.  Instead of only taking a percentage of the profit, the corporation took Vermilion’s boats, sold them, and kept all profits. […]

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