On Thursday, a Miami federal jury ordered Moreno Farms Inc., a produce farming operation in southern Florida, to pay $17.4 million to five former employees who were victims of sexual harassment and retaliation. The award was for $15 million in punitive damages and $2.4 million in compensatory damages.
The victims were hired between October and December 2011 to work as vegetable packagers inside the farm’s warehouse facility. The farm owner’s sons, who were also supervisors, were among three supervisors accused of sexually harassing female migrant workers, including groping and raping them. According to the Complaint in the case, the female workers were also victims of offensive comments and repeated threats that they would be fired if they refused the men’s sexual advances. In one instance, Omar Moreno allegedly told one plaintiff who rejected his repeated propositions for sex, “I know you need this job, you need to do what I say or you will die of hunger.” The Complaint also alleged that some of the victims were raped inside mobile home trailers near the area where they worked and that all of them were eventually fired by the farm in retaliation for refusing their harassers.
“Having long been silenced by shame and fear, this trial offered these five women the opportunity to give voice publicly to their experiences and their desire for justice,” Beatriz André, an EEOC lawyer said in a statement.
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…]
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. 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. 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.
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…]
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…]
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.
Dr. Deweese worked as a family practice physician for nearly twenty years at Lakeview and earned high praise from his patients. He devoted his entire working life to the institution, committed himself to a high standard of excellence in his profession, and committed a large capital contribution in order to secure his partnership. Dr. Deweese alleges that Lakeview’s relationship with him changed after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in summer 2007.
“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.
The law firm Madia Law LLC is located in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. Madia Law's employment law attorneys and civil rights lawyers represent victims of employment discrimination, workplace retaliation, wrongful termination, civil rights violations such as excessive police force, and more. Madia Law practices in state and federal court throughout the Twin Cities, Wisconsin, and greater Minnesota, including: Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington, Duluth, Edina, Eden Prairie, Maple Grove, Maplewood, Eagan, Woodbury, Richfield, Minnetonka, Wayzata, Blaine, St. Cloud, Lakeville, Brooklyn Park, Rochester, Superior, Hudson, River Falls, New Richmond, Eau Claire, Madison, Menomonie, La Crosse, and more.