Wrongful Termination

Two days ago, in a win for Minnesota employees, the Minnesota Court of Appeals declared that whistleblower protection under Minn. Stat. § 181.932 extends back six years. The case, which was before the appellate panel pursuant to remand by the Minnesota Supreme Court, is still progressing its way through the courts, with the plaintiff finally set to get a jury trial on claims brought over four years ago.

Minneapolis Employment Law Lawyers

Minnesota’s whistleblower statute protects employees who are wrongfully terminated (or suffer other adverse employment action) at work because of reporting or otherwise opposing their employer’s unlawful conduct. The statute’s goal is to provide remedy for workers by allowing them to pursue a civil lawsuit against the employer that illegally discharged them. The statute reads:

Subdivision 1. Prohibited action.

An employer shall not discharge, discipline, threaten, otherwise discriminate against, or penalize an employee regarding the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location, or privileges of employment because:

(1) the employee, or a person acting on behalf of an employee, in good faith, reports a violation, suspected violation, or planned violation of any federal or state law or common law or rule adopted pursuant to law to an employer or to any governmental body or law enforcement official;

(2) the employee is requested by a public body or office to participate in an investigation, hearing, inquiry;

(3) the employee refuses an employer’s order to perform an action that the employee has an objective basis in fact to believe violates any state or federal law or rule or regulation adopted pursuant to law, and the employee informs the employer that the order is being refused for that reason;

(4) the employee, in good faith, reports a situation in which the quality of health care services provided by a health care facility, organization, or health care provider violates a standard established by federal or state law or a professionally recognized national clinical or ethical standard and potentially places the public at risk of harm;

(5) a public employee communicates the findings of a scientific or technical study that the employee, in good faith, believes to be truthful and accurate, including reports to a governmental body or law enforcement official; or

(6) an employee in the classified service of state government communicates information that the employee, in good faith, believes to be truthful and accurate, and that relates to state services, including the financing of state services, to:

(i) a legislator or the legislative auditor; or

(ii) a constitutional officer.

The disclosures protected pursuant to this section do not authorize the disclosure of data otherwise protected by law.

Subd. 2.Disclosure of identity.

The identity of any employee making a report to a governmental body or law enforcement official under subdivision 1, clause (1) or (4), is private data on individuals as defined in section 13.02. The identity of an employee providing information under subdivision 1, clause (2), is private data on individuals if:

(1) the employee would not have provided the information without an assurance that the employee’s identity would remain private, because of a concern that the employer would commit an action prohibited under subdivision 1 or that the employee would be subject to some other form of retaliation; or

(2) the state agency, statewide system, or political subdivision reasonably believes that the employee would not have provided the data because of that concern.

If the disclosure is necessary for prosecution, the identity of the employee may be disclosed but the employee shall be informed prior to the disclosure.

Subd. 3.False disclosures.

This section does not permit an employee to make statements or disclosures knowing that they are false or that they are in reckless disregard of the truth.

Subd. 4.Collective bargaining rights.

This section does not diminish or impair the rights of a person under any collective bargaining agreement.

Subd. 5.Confidential information

This section does not permit disclosures that would violate federal or state law or diminish or impair the rights of any person to the continued protection of confidentiality of communications provided by common law

Minn. Stat. § 181.932 (2014)

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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.

Minnesota Jury Trial Attorneys

 

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…]

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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.

Minnesota Jury Trial Attorneys

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…]

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The Argument of the Month Club describes itself as, “The Men’s Forum for Catholic Apologetics.”  Started 14 years ago, the wildly successful forum now attracts more than 500 men to its monthly discussions.  Tackling tough and wide-ranging topics, the group’s mission is to enlighten both Catholics and non-Catholics in order to better teach and defend the Catholic faith.

Madia Law’s Joshua Newville is honored to speak at the forum on May 13, 2014.  Newville will join Attorney Joel Oster, senior legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, and moderator Michael Olson from Providence Academy, in discussing a topic that intersects employment law and constitutional law: to what extent can private schools terminate employees who speak out against the institution’s principles, teaching, etc.?  Can Catholic schools fire employees who are openly opposed to the very faith tradition of the school itself?

Newville, who represents individuals in matters involving discrimination and the deprivation of civil rights and liberties, will argue that private schools must be careful not to ignore individual employee rights, i.e., principles of free speech and anti-discrimination, in a pursuit of institutional autonomy.  In presenting his argument, Newville will draw on principles and practices in constitutional and employment law, as well as recent relevant case law and broader policy considerations.

Oster, who represents churches and private schools in such litigation, argues that we’ve entered a new era regarding religious freedom – one where government passes law that requires people and institutions to violate their faith. Oster’s argument focuses on the autonomy of the church and how that relates to such constitutional principles as the free exercise of religion pursuant to the First Amendment.

The discussion will take place in the basement of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, which is located at 408 3rd St. N. in South Saint Paul, MN 55075.  The event details, from the event website:

MENU
From the AOTM CORONARY KITCHEN!
Appetizer
Chips and salsa
Dinner
Smoked Pork, boiled red potatoes covered in herbed chived butter
Dessert
Brownies and ice cream
 
6:00pm Social Hour and Appetizers
7:00pm Dinner
7:30pm Main Presentation
8:30pm Dessert
8:45pm Q&A
$15 at the door (The total cost for the night) You will get great appetizers and beverages, hear one of the best inspirational stories you have ever heard about manhood and faith. Do all this while you listen and enjoy a fabulous “Manly Meal”. Men of all creeds and ages are welcome to join in the good humor, food, and fellowship. Priests and seminarians get in free but will not be shown partiality in debate. Fathers are encouraged to bring their minor sons.

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Madia Law settled an age discrimination case on behalf of “Joan” after defeating her former employer’s motion for summary judgment.

The terms are confidential pursuant to the parties’ settlement agreement.

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The myriad surveys, articles, and headlines are clear: whether you are aware of it or not, your employers—both prospective and current—are monitoring (and, in some instances, controlling) your social media presence. [1] [2] [3].  As long as management-side employment law attorneys continue to tout a parade of horrible to their clients regarding social media, this trend will continue.

There are and have been countless warnings in the form of online articles, workplace policies, and various other friendly reminders: think twice before using social media to broadcast your stream of consciousness via poorly-thought status updates and 140-character snark-ridden commentary.  Yet, employees continue to tank their present or prospective employment by making atrociously bad decisions relating to social media. [4] [5].

Minnesota and Wisconsin Employment Law Attorneys

It is imperative that employees begin to grapple with the reality of social media: absolutely nothing is as private as you think. [click to continue…]

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Employment disputes can be tumultuous, often leading to a “your word against mine” situation.  However, when one of those parties is a large corporation and the other is just a single employee, the employee can be at a slight disadvantage in terms of the weight given to on their recollection of events by the judge and/or jury. Because of this, the use of an investigator can offer a critical advantage in an employment law case.

Minnesota Wrongful Termination Lawyers

You can be assured that the employer is doing their due diligence and attempting to uncover everything that they can about the employee and his or her time with the company.   It is in the employee’s and their attorneys’ best interests to do the same. [click to continue…]

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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.[1]  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.[2]  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.

Minneapolis Employment Law Lawyers

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…]

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Early last month, a federal jury in the Southern District of Iowa awarded a $240 million verdict to 32 mentally disabled men that suffered through years of slave-like employment in a turkey slaughterhouse operated by Henry’s Turkey Service, also known as Hill Country Farms.  Hill Country, a Texas based company, operated the slaughterhouse in Iowa and had been employing mentally disabled men for over four decades.  Hill Country offered room and board in an old schoolhouse without central heat.  Room and board was part of the employment benefits and calculated as earnings on top of the $2 per day salary.  Supervisors that cared for the employees doled out verbal abuse, occasional physical abuse, and manual labor as punishment.  The civil trial uncovered one such instance when an employee was handcuffed to his bed and left screaming and crying.[1]

Minnesota Wrongful Termination Attorneys

The $240 million verdict was awarded after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission proved harassment and discrimination violations of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The award granted each of the 32 men about $5.5 million in compensatory damages, plus $2 million as punitive damages because Hill Country acted with malice or reckless indifference.  Unfortunately, Hill Country “is believed to have no more than $4 million in assets, and… damages awarded by the jury go ‘well beyond’ what is allowed by the Civil Rights Act of 1991.”[2]  The EEOC attorney, Robert Canino, said, “I can tell you the EEOC is going to explore every option, and with great diligence, to ascertain every possible source of revenue… to satisfy the judgment.”[3]  Hill Country is also liable for over $4 million in fines for violating federal, and state, labor and wage laws.

And so, the mentally disabled ex-employees of Hill Country savored sweet justice for all of about two weeks.  [click to continue…]

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On May 7, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) brought (and quickly settled) its very first case under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”).  The complaint alleged that an employer had illegally gathered genetic information during job applicants’ medical exams.

DNA

GINA, which went into effect in 2009, prohibits the use of genetic information in making employment decisions.  The Act prohibits, among other things, an employer’s use of the following information:

  • family medical history,
  • genetic information about an individual or their family member (such as whether they have an increased chance of developing cancer,
  • whether an individual or their family member has received or sought genetic counseling, and
  • whether an individual or their family member has been involved in research that includes genetic testing. [click to continue…]

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Not My Fault, Your Honor. She’s Just Too Hot.

March 4, 2013

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 […]

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November 2012: Madia Law Sues Accounting Firm on Behalf of Learning Disabled Accountant

November 22, 2012

In November 2012, Madia Law sued a Twin Cities accounting firm on behalf of a learning disabled accountant. The young accountant, who has suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”) since he was a child, disclosed his disability to his supervisor at the time of his first performance evaluation.   Despite being fully capable of […]

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“Minnesota Lawyer” covers Madia Law’s $1.3 Million Verdict in Breach of Duty Case

October 5, 2012

Minnesota Lawyer covered Madia Law’s recent $1.3 million jury verdict in it’s October issue.  The front-page article includes excerpts of interviews with Ashwin Madia and Susan Gaertner.  

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Minnesota Election Could Mean “Right to Work” Amendment

September 27, 2012

For the first time in almost forty years, Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate of the Minnesota Legislature for the previous two sessions.  Despite the veto power of Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL), Minnesota Republicans made significant strides in the latest sessions–including placement on the ballot of the proposed Voter-ID and anti gay marriage […]

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Aug. 2012: Madia Law Wins $1.3M Jury Verdict in Disability Discrimination Case

September 12, 2012

After a two week trial, a Carver County jury awarded Madia law client Dr. Sam Deweese nearly $1.3M in damages from his former clinic. Dr. Deweese worked as a family practice physician for nearly twenty years at his clinic and earned high praise from his patients.  He devoted his entire working life to the institution, […]

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Employment Law Imbalance: How To Avoid Losing Before Trial

August 23, 2012

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. […]

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Lawsuit Alleges Old Boys’ Club in Young Industry

June 12, 2012

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 […]

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Supreme Court to Review Prop 8 and Sexual Orientation Discrimination

June 7, 2012

Tuesday’s decision in Perry v. Brown (the “Prop 8” case) means that roughly one year from now, it is likely that the United States Supreme Court will be giving its opinion on the now infamous 2008 ballot proposition that resulted in barring Californian gay couples from joining in marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy will ultimately decide the fate of […]

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Minnesota Supreme Court: Employees do not need to refer to Minnesota Parental Leave Act when taking medical leave

June 3, 2012

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.

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Court denies summary judgment to bank that fired longtime employee who had multiple sclerosis

May 7, 2012

Wandersee v. Farmers State Bank (D. Minn. 2012):  A federal district court in Minnesota denied summary judgment to Farmers State Bank in a disability discrimination case under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Minnesota Human Rights Act brought by Karin Wandersee, a longtime employee who suffers from multiple sclerosis.

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