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.
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.
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…]
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…]
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:
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.
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…]
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.
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…]
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.
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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.