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

by Ashwin Madia, Attorney on March 18, 2011Ashwin Madia, Attorney

“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, Sam’s employer began targeting him at work. He was disciplined six times within the next eight weeks, even though he had not been disciplined a single time over six years of employment before his complaint. Ultimately, Sam’s employer fired him.

Madia Law represented Sam and filed a complaint in Ramsey County District Court alleging anti-Semitic discrimination and retaliation under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.  Sam’s employer initially claimed that it disciplined and terminated Sam for performance problems.  However, in discovery, Sam’s supervisor admitted during a deposition that he increased scrutiny and discipline of Sam after his complaint of regarding the anti-Semitic slurs.  Additional evidence revealed that Sam’s peers were given more opportunities to make sales with larger clients than Sam after his complaint.

Employers are not permitted to take adverse employment actions against employees due to complaints of discrimination – that qualifies as per se retaliation.  The analysis regarding retaliation is not related to whether the employee’s complaint regarding discrimination was ultimately found to be true.  So long as an employee has a good faith and reasonable belief that there were grounds for a complaint of discrimination or harassment, the employee is protected from retaliation.

The U.S. Supreme Court held in Burlington Northern v. White that “adverse employment actions” include any action by an employer that “might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.”  An employee does not need to suffer from a demotion, termination, reassignment, or loss of pay in order to have suffered an adverse employment action.  Disciplinary actions, reprimands, and the “papering” of an employee’s personnel file all qualify as adverse employment actions under Title VII and the MHRA.  In this case, Sam had suffered from all three after his complaint.

After a year and half of discovery, Sam’s employer moved for summary judgment and asked the Ramsey County District Court judge to dismiss Sam’s case and deny him a jury trial.  Sam’s employer lost its motion.

After losing its motion, Sam’s employer settled the case.  I was honored to represent Sam – he was tenacious in his ability to persevere against long odds to hold his employer accountable for unlawful retaliation.

Please note that every case is different, with its own unique facts. Just because Sam received a large settlement in his case does not mean that you will obtain the same amount in your case. You should contact Madia Law to discuss your retaliation case in detail and get an accurate assessment of its value.

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