Sex Discrimination

I’ll admit it.  When I first learned about “The Woman Question“ during my first year of a law school, I wasn’t impressed.  I immediately equated this feminist approach to the world (and particularly, to the law) with what I felt was as an overly radicalized modern feminism.

Minnesota Gender Discrimination Lawyers This week, I was reminded of The Woman Question.  A new study (conducted by the University of Toronto and published September 16) shows that I wasn’t alone in my thoughts on feminism.  As a society, the study determines, we tend to distrust movements heavily supported by overt activism.  Salon’s Tom Jacobs concludes:

So the message to advocates is clear: Avoid rhetoric or actions that reinforce the stereotype of the angry activist. Realize that if people find you off-putting, they’re not going to listen to your message. As Bashir and her colleagues note, potential converts to your cause “may be more receptive to advocates who defy stereotypes by coming across as pleasant and approachable.”

As a threshold matter, the angry activists have reason to be angry.  American women make 81 cents on the dollar when compared to men.  The United States is one of only 8 countries in the world that don’t offer paid maternity leave (with the likes of Suriname, Liberia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Western Samoa and Tonga).  In 2011, women ran only 12 of the Fortune 500 companies.  In 2010, women accounted for only 31.5% of all lawyers.  Unfortunately, I could go on with employment (and other) disparities.

In any event, as I’ve come to learn since that first year of law school, the kind of strident activism employed by groups such as feminists, environmentalists, and gay rights advocates serves one incredibly important purpose: it forces those in a position of power to pay attention, to take pause, to ask questions.   [click to continue…]

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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 minority employees across the country from access to Title VII remedies. And although the news for same-sex couples was brighter, the Court’s narrow decisions on that front leave much work to be done in the struggle for equality.

Wednesday, the Supreme Court released its decisions in United States v. Windsor (the “DOMA” case) and Hollingsworth v. Perry (the “Prop 8″ case).  These two cases each had the potential to become landmark civil rights precedent, with monumental significance for gay and lesbian Americans; they were heralded by pundits as the most important civil rights cases of our generation.

Indeed, the decision in Windsor will go down as one of the most significant decisions in Supreme Court history; it struck at the heart of DOMA and declared gay and lesbians deserving of equal protection under the law.  The Court’s decision in Perry, on the other hand, will soon be brushed into the dusty corners of irrelevance; in that case, a group of five strange bedfellow Justices entirely ducked the question of whether same-sex couples are entitled to marriage equality.  Thus, the struggle for gay civil rights marches on – and there is a lot of ground to cover. [click to continue…]

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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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It’s a tactic long used by defendants in both civil and criminal cases.  From charges of rape to sexual harassment, men take the stand and point the finger at their female victims.  Claiming that they “asked for it,” or that they “wanted it,” such men have often found sympathetic audiences in judges and juries.

In three recent and sensational examples (one in Iowa, one in Minnesota, and one in Arizona), Defendants’ attempts to use the “blame her defense” have yielded strikingly different results.  While the cases are very different, both legally and factually, they serve as fascinating examples of a kind of defense that, despite such protections as Title VII and the Minnesota Human Rights Act, female victims must continue to grapple with.

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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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Medical Leave and Maternity Leave

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.

Read More . . .

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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.

Read More . . .

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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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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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California’s Proposition 8 is struck down – what next?

August 12, 2010

Ted Olson and David Boies teamed up for equality Last week, Judge Vaughn Walker issued a highly anticipated ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger striking down California’s Proposition 8 – which amended California’s state constitution to restrict marriage to “a man and a woman” – on the grounds that Proposition 8 violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth […]

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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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