Title VII

On Friday, May 2, Madia Law filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The lawsuit, filed against NeuroScience, Inc. and Pharmasan Labs, Inc., alleges pay discrimination on the basis of sex/gender.

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Defendants NeuroScience and Pharmasan Labs advertise themselves as being committed to delivering personalized health care solutions. The companies include a clinical laboratory improvements-regulated specialty reference laboratory, purportedly providing licensed health care providers with integrative clinical assessments (testing) and proprietary nutraceuticals (supplements) that purportedly identify and target neurological and hormonal imbalances.

Plaintiff Danielle Ailts Campeau has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls. Campeau’s full-time employment with Defendants began in May 2007.  Campeau began as a technical support specialist and quickly rose to one of the most senior positions in the company, overseeing multiple departments and projects and assisting in privacy and compliance officer functions.

Midway through her employment with Defendants, Campeau discovered that she was substantially underpaid compared to men in the company who had both similar and significantly less education, experience, and responsibility.  Campeau approached Defendants regarding this unequal pay and was rebuffed.  Campeau remained grossly underpaid compared to men in both comparable and less comparable positions (with regard to education, experience, and job responsibilities).

In February 2014, after opposing unfair treatment of a fellow female employee, Campeau was immediately terminated by Defendants.

Campeau is in possession of substantial evidence that she and other female employees of Defendants were and are significantly underpaid compared to men in the company.  Defendants’ actions in this regard violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act.

Campeau’s lawsuit is filed on behalf of herself and other female employees of Defendants.  Female employees will have the opportunity to join Campeau’s lawsuit as opt-in plaintiffs in this action, pursuing monetary damages from Defendants, punitive damages, and all other relief available by law.

Campeau’s attorney is Madia Law’s Joshua Newville, a Minnesota and Wisconsin employment and civil rights attorney.  Newville’s phone number is 612.349.2743.

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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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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:

Minnesota Employment Harassment Lawyers

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.

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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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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 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 . . .

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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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Sexual Harassment Jury

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.

Read More . . .

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EEOC: Employers may not automatically deny employment based on criminal record

April 15, 2012

The EEOC updated its guidance regarding how criminal records can be used by employers in hiring decisions.  The EEOC reaffirmed that – in some instances – an employer’s use of an individual’s criminal records when making employment decisions will violate Title VII’s ban on employment discrimination.

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Eighth Circuit reverses district court and finds constructive discharge in race discrimination case

February 28, 2012

Sanders v. Lee County School District, No. 10-3240 (8th Cir. 2012).  An Arkansas jury found in favor of plaintiff Sharon Sanders on her Title VII claims of race discrimination and constructive discharge.  The jury awarded $10,000 in compensatory damages for race discrimination, $60,825 in back and front pay damages for her constructive discharge, and $8,000 […]

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Feb. 2012: Madia Law beats City’s motion and forces settlement to police officer pushed out because he was gay

February 22, 2012

For nearly three years, Sean Lathrop was a star of the St. Cloud Police Department.  Known as the “Golden Boy,” Officer Lathrop earned superlative performance evaluations, garnered high recommendations from community members, and quickly advanced to positions of responsibility. Officer Lathrop’s ascent within the Department came to an abrupt end on May 12, 2009, when […]

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Mar. 2011: Madia Law beats summary judgment motion brought by one of MN’s biggest law firms; settles case for retaliation victim

March 18, 2011

“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, […]

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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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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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