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 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…]
Today, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”), which is considered by many to be the most important civil rights law to have ever been authored by Congress. In short: the Supreme Court gutted our country’s chief mechanism for preventing the South from engaging in racially discriminatory voting practices.
From Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Shelby County v. Holder:
Congress approached the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA with great care and seriousness. The same cannot be said of the Court’s opinion today. The Court makes no genuine attempt to engage with the massive legislative record that Congress assembled. Instead, it relies on increases in voter registration and turnout as if that were the whole story. See supra, at 18–19. Without even identifying a standard of review, the Court dismissively brushes off arguments based on “data from the record,” and declines to enter the “debat[e about] what [the] record shows.” Ante, at 20–21. One would expect more from an opinion striking at the heart of the Nation’s signal piece of civil-rights legislation.
The Court has time and again declined to upset legislation of this genre unless there was no or almost no evidence of unconstitutional action by States. See, e.g., City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U. S. 507, 530 (1997) (legislative record “mention[ed] no episodes [of the kind the legislation aimed to check] occurring in the past 40 years”). No such claim can be made about the congressional record for the 2006 VRA reauthorization. Given a record replete with examples of denial or abridgment of a paramount federal right, the Court should have left the matter where it belongs: in Congress’ bailiwick.
Instead, the Court strikes §4(b)’s coverage provision because, in its view, the provision is not based on “current conditions.” Ante, at 17. It discounts, however, that one such condition was the preclearance remedy in place in the covered jurisdictions, a remedy Congress designed both to catch discrimination before it causes harm, and to guard against return to old ways. 2006 Reauthorization §2(b)(3), (9). Volumes of evidence supported Congress’ determination that the prospect of retrogression was real. Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.
The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective. The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that preclear ance is no longer needed. Ante, at 21–22, 23–24. With that belief, and the argument derived from it, history repeats itself. The same assumption—that the problem could be solved when particular methods of voting discrim ination are identified and eliminated—was indulged and proved wrong repeatedly prior to the VRA’s enactment. Unlike prior statutes, which singled out particular tests or devices, the VRA is grounded in Congress’ recognition of the “variety and persistence” of measures designed to impair minority voting rights. Katzenbach, 383 U. S., at 311; supra, at 2. In truth, the evolution of voting discrimination into more subtle second-generation barriers is powerful evidence that a remedy as effective as preclearance remains vital to protect minority voting rights and prevent backsliding.
Beyond question, the VRA is no ordinary legislation. It is extraordinary because Congress embarked on a mission long delayed and of extraordinary importance: to realize the purpose and promise of the Fifteenth Amendment. For a half century, a concerted effort has been made to end racial discrimination in voting. Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, progress once the subject of a dream has been achieved and continues to be made.
The record supporting the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA is also extraordinary. It was described by the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee as “one of the most extensive considerations of any piece of legisla tion that the United States Congress has dealt with in the 271⁄2 years” he had served in the House. 152 Cong. Rec. H5143 (July 13, 2006) (statement of Rep. Sensenbrenner).
After exhaustive evidence-gathering and deliberative process, Congress reauthorized the VRA, including the coverage provision, with overwhelming bipartisan support. It was the judgment of Congress that “40 years has not been a sufficient amount of time to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination following nearly 100 years of disregard for the dictates of the 15th amendment and to ensure that the right of all citizens to vote is protected as guaranteed by the Constitution.” 2006 Reauthorization §2(b)(7), 120 Stat. 577. That determination of the body empowered to enforce the Civil War Amendments “by appropriate legislation” merits this Court’s utmost respect. In my judgment, the Court errs egregiously by overriding Congress’ decision.
The Twin Cities leads the nation in racial inequality in the workplace. A study released last month by the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota Law School suggests one potential contributory reason for the inequity between black and white employees in Minneapolis and St. Paul: segregation that begins in school.
In the late 1980’s, Minnesota began allowing for open enrollment between school districts. Provided that parents provide for transportation if they elect to put their children in a school outside of their home district, they may send their children to whatever Minnesota public school district they see fit. The study results suggest, however, that racial discrimination may be one reason parents are choosing to send their children’s to different districts. [click to continue…]
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.
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In Brown v. Board (U.S. 1954), the United States Supreme Court ordered that public schools across the nation integrate, supposedly putting an end to the segregation of schools on the basis of race. Yet, Minnesota spent the better part of the next thirty years attempting to achieve that end.
In 1964, Title VII of The Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination (by covered employers) on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In light of these measures, one might expect that in 2012 matters of racial inequality would be more fully addressed. Yet, Minnesota Public Radio reported Tuesday that the Twin Cities (again) lead the nation in the gap between black and white unemployment. Read More . . .
Andrew Cohen, contributing editor at The Atlantic, discusses in Supreme Court Review: The Tyranny of the Majority how four of this week’s controversial decisions from the nation’s highest Court were decided by one vote. Cohen’s piece is a solid reminder that, despite the complexity and nuance of constitutional law, it is the ballot box during presidential-election years that remains the most powerful force in the determination of Supreme Court decisions.
The future of same-sex marriage and voting rights, among other matters, rest in the hands of voters this November. Supreme Court decisions have wide-sweeping and significant controlling authority. With regard to sexual orientation, the court will be considering the validity of California’s Proposition 8 . On voting rights, the Court will be set to review key statutory provisions recently upheld by a federal appellate court.
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 manager for termination, despite the fact that he had more experience, better performance reviews, and better attendance than his only peer.
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“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, Sam’s employer began targeting him at work. He was disciplined six times within the next eight weeks, even though he had not been disciplined a single time over six years of employment before his complaint. Ultimately, Sam’s employer fired him.
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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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