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.
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…]
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…]
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.
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.” 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.” 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…]
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.
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…]
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.
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 being successful at the job, the young man wanted to be sure his supervisor knew that he thinks, learns, and works in a different way than others, particularly since he noticed a few comments on his evaluation that seemed to signal a concern with the way he processed information and executed tasks. The accountant felt that it would help everyone involved to be aware of his slight disability. But, soon after disclosing his disability and requesting slight accommodation, he was fired. [click to continue…]
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 amendments. Whether Republicans retain those majorities in November may have a significant impact on the direction of labor/employment law and various civil rights matters in the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions.
MinnPost photo by James Nord
If the Republicans do retain majorities in both houses, one thing to expect is that Minnesota will join the likes of Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma in having its voters decide on a “right to work” amendment to the Minnesota Constitution.
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, 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 alleged that his clinic’s relationship with him changed after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in summer 2007.
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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.
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.
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 […]
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 […]
“Jill” (name changed for confidentiality) worked at a large corporation for nearly twenty years as a maintenance worker and excelled. However, she injured her back on the job and needed medical attention. Ultimately, her doctor gave her work restrictions stating that she could not lift, push, or pull more than 40 pounds. She continued working […]
“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, […]
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 […]
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.