The Law Continues to Get Better for Minnesota Employees: MHRA Expanded

The Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) has been expanded in several important ways that will help employees across Minnesota. Governor Walz has signed a new bill, HF 4109, and it’s packed with great updates to the MHRA to help workers all over the state. Some highlights of the changes include:

Key Points of the New Law

  1. Intersectional Discrimination: The new law recognizes that discrimination can happen to people who belong to more than one protected group. This means if someone faces unfair treatment because they belong to multiple groups, like being both a woman and a person of color, the law will protect them.
  2. Disability Definition: The law now has a broader definition of “disability.” It includes conditions that come and go or are in remission, aligning more closely with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).
  3. Harassment Protection: It’s now clear that harassment based on any protected characteristic (like race, gender, or disability) is against the law, not just sexual harassment.
  4. Familial Status: The definition of “familial status” has been expanded, but the details are not provided in the summary.
  5. Extended Deadlines: If the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) dismisses a claim, workers now have 90 days to file a lawsuit, instead of the previous 45 days. This matches the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) limit.
  6. Statute of Limitations: If MDHR takes too long to investigate a case, workers won’t lose their right to file a lawsuit because of it. This fixes some old case law problems.
  7. Punitive Damages: There is no longer a cap on punitive damages for claims against non-government entities. This means workers can potentially receive more money if they win their case because their employer intentionally or recklessly violated the law.
  8. Treble Damages: The law confirms that workers can get triple the amount of emotional distress damages, not just economic damages.
  9. Jury Decisions: In cases under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, a jury, not a judge, will decide all damages questions.

How the Law Came to Be

This bill was created by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) and is the first of its kind. The MDHR submitted an omnibus bill that was carried forward and put into law in a bipartisan effort, and signed by Governor Walz. Kitzer Rochel attorneys Frances Baillon, Phillip Kitzer, and Brian Rochel all helped in the effort to expand the MHRA along with many other members of Minnesota’s Chapter of the National Employment Lawyers Association (MN-NELA). Thanks to the effort of many dedicated lawyers and lawmakers, we’ve achieved something amazing by working together. This new law will provide better protection and support for workers in Minnesota.

When Do the Changes Come Into Effect

Some of the new provisions are in effect already because they only clarify the existing law. Any new legal requirement added by the law will go into effect on August 1, 2024. Contact us if you have questions about this exciting new update or employment law more generally.

U.S. Supreme Court Issues Major Victory in Sex Discrimination Case, Lowering the Standard for Proving Discrimination

On April 17, 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling clarifying that any discriminatory treatment of an employee violates Title VII. The Court ruled in favor of an employee, Sergeant Jatonya Clayborn Muldrow, in her sex discrimination case against the City of St. Louis. Muldrow, who worked as a plainclothes officer in the St. Louis Police Department’s Intelligence Division, was transferred to a uniformed job in the Fifth District against her wishes. She alleged that the transfer was due to her being a woman and that it negatively impacted her employment terms and conditions.

The lower courts had rejected Muldrow’s claim, stating that she needed to show that the transfer caused a “significant” employment disadvantage. However, the Supreme Court rejected this approach, stating that Title VII’s text does not establish such a high bar for proving harm in a discrimination case.

Justice Kagan, who delivered the opinion of the Court, emphasized that while an employee must show some harm from a forced transfer (or other type of employment action) to prevail in a Title VII suit, they need not show that the injury satisfies any sort of significance test. The Court vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

This decision is a major victory for employees who face discrimination in the workplace, as it clarifies that they do not need to meet an elevated threshold of harm to pursue a Title VII claim. The Supreme Court’s ruling reinforces the importance of protecting workers from discriminatory practices that adversely affect their employment terms and conditions, regardless of the perceived significance of the harm caused.

If you have questions about the Muldrow decision, gender discrimination, or employment law generally, please contact us today.


Navigating Unique Terrain: Employment Law for Physicians in Minnesota

Physicians play a crucial role in the healthcare landscape, dedicating their expertise to the well-being of patients. However, the practice of medicine isn’t just about patient care; it’s also about understanding the legal framework that governs employment in the medical field. In Minnesota, like in many other states, physicians encounter a unique set of employment laws that require careful navigation. In this post, we explore several distinctive aspects of employment law specifically relevant to physicians in Minnesota.

Licensing and Credentialing:

Minnesota has its own licensing and credentialing requirements for physicians, which can impact their employment. From obtaining a medical license to privileges at specific hospitals or healthcare facilities, physicians must adhere to state regulations. Moreover, credentialing processes can vary between institutions, requiring physicians to stay abreast of each entity’s specific requirements. Failure to maintain proper licensure or credentials can jeopardize employment opportunities and professional standing.

Whistleblower Protections:

Physicians, as advocates for patient safety and ethical medical practices, may find themselves in situations where they need to report wrongdoing or unsafe conditions. Minnesota law provides protections for whistleblowers who report violations of law or regulations in good faith. In fact, Minnesota law provides specific protections for any employee who reports a concern about the standard of patient or healthcare. Navigating whistleblower protections can be complex, as physicians must ensure their actions are lawful and in the best interest of patient care while also safeguarding themselves from retaliation.

Wage and Hour Laws:

Physicians, especially those in residency programs or employed by healthcare institutions, are subject to both Federal and Minnesota wage and hour laws. Understanding regulations regarding minimum wage, overtime pay, and meal and rest breaks is crucial for both employers and physicians. Additionally, residency programs must comply with Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) standards, which include duty hour restrictions to prevent physician fatigue and ensure patient safety.

Telemedicine Regulations:

With the rise of telemedicine, physicians must also be aware of the regulatory landscape governing remote healthcare services in Minnesota. State laws dictate licensure requirements, patient consent protocols, and standards of care for telemedicine practitioners. Physicians engaging in telemedicine must adhere to these regulations to avoid legal repercussions and ensure quality patient care.

In conclusion, employment law for physicians in Minnesota presents a complex and evolving landscape that requires careful attention to detail and compliance. If you have questions about employment law generally, or how it applies in the physician or healthcare setting, contact experienced attorneys at Kitzer Rochel, PLLP today.

Hennepin County Jury Awards Landmark Verdict of Over $4.6 Million in Whistleblower Case

In January 2024, Brent Bullis, a radiologist and senior shareholder of Consulting Radiologists, Limited (CRL) in Eden Prairie, was granted a historic jury verdict of $4.6 million in a case against his employer for wrongful termination.

Dr. Bullis brought a claim against CRL and Allina Health System for retaliation in violation of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act and the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Dr. Bullis alleged that he was terminated in retaliation for his reports of sex discrimination, billing fraud, patient care violations, and illegal and fraudulent activity to CRL. Dr. Bullis, who had worked with CRL for over 18 years, brought forth these concerns to leadership out of good faith and hope that CRL would change its practices so that he could continue his career at CRL. However, when CRL repeatedly failed to act, he warned that he would have to report his concerns to Allina Health, the parent company of Abbott Northwestern Hospital where Dr. Bullis practiced through CRL. In response, CRL terminated his employment. 

While Bullis’ claims against Allina Health were dismissed in August 2023, his claims against CRL proceeded to trial. After a two-week long trial, the jury ruled in favor of Dr. Bullis and granted him $ 4,587,602 in damages. The damages calculation included actual and compensatory damages, including past and future wage loss and emotional distress.  

This damages award was a significant victory for Dr. Bullis, for employment rights advocates, and for future plaintiffs. A jury award this high shows that the Minnesota community does not tolerate employers who retaliate against their employees for reporting ethical and legal violations and safety concerns. The inclusion of emotional distress damages also recognizes that the effects employees face after discrimination in their workplace extends beyond just the loss of a paycheck. Losing a job often leads to significant effects on a person’s mental and physical health, reputation, and dignity.  

If you have questions about employment law, or feel that your rights may have been violated, contact Kitzer Rochel today.

What to Know about Minnesota’s Pregnancy and Parental Leave Laws

This past legislative session, Minnesota passed a law guaranteeing employees the right to paid pregnancy or parental leave. This will go into effect on January 1, 2026.

As it stands, employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within 12 months of the birth or adoption of a child. Employees can choose when they would like to take this leave, with the only requirement being that they provide reasonable notice to their employers. Employees are entitled to their job back when they return from leave and they are entitled to continue receiving health insurance benefits while on leave, although they may be asked to pay for it.

Starting in 2026, the State of Minnesota will begin paying you a portion of your wages while you are out on leave, becoming the 12th state to offer such a program.

If you are experiencing discrimination or retaliation on the basis of your pregnancy or other protected status, contact Kitzer Rochel. Our experienced employment law attorneys would be happy to discuss your case and understand your legal rights and options.

Phillip Kitzer and Brian Rochel both Present at National NELA Employment Law Conference

The National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA) held its Annual Convention in Chicago, Illinois from June 28 through July 1, 2023. NELA is the largest organization of lawyers who represent workers in the United States and is focused exclusively on advancing employee rights and making the workplace better for all Americans.

The Annual Convention is the largest meeting of NELA members each year. The Annual Convention provides several days of intensive, high-quality continuing legal education (CLE) training for employment lawyers. Both Brian Rochel and Phillip Kitzer  were invited to speak at the Convention—an honor that very few members are given.

Brian presented on a panel entitled “Putting Theory Into Practice: Effectively Litigating Age Discrimination Claims.” The panel provided a detailed discussion and strategies for plaintiff’s advocates to use in representing employees in age discrimination claims.

Phillip presented on a panel entitled “25 Years After Faragher-Ellerth.” The panel provided in-depth updates on the state of employment law as it relates to the the use of the “Faragher-Ellerth” affirmative defense in sexual harassment claims.

Phillip and Brian regularly speak on employment law topics and present around the country. If you have questions about employment law please do not hesitate to contact us.

What Minnesota Employees Need to Know about the Historic 2023 Legislative Session

The 2023 legislative session came to an end last month, but not before lawmakers passed a multitude of bills that brought significant improvements to the rights of employees in Minnesota. From expanded paid leave to additional protections from discrimination to enhanced workplace safety protections, here’s what Minnesota employees need to know about the evolving employment law landscape.

The biggest change might be the implementation of a paid family and medical leave program. Beginning in 2026, workers will have the right to paid leave when they must miss work for medical, caregiving, parental, safety, or deployment reasons. Workers may take up to 12 weeks of leave per year, and they are entitled to their job back when they return from leave. This includes all full and part-time employees, with very limited exceptions for seasonal workers.

Similarly, employees in Minnesota will now earn one hour of time off to care for themselves or their family members under a new sick and safe time program set to begin in 2024. Workers will have to give reasonable notice to take time off, and the absence must be related to physical or mental health, taking care of a family member, closure of work, school, or childcare due to severe weather or an emergency, or seeking safety from domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for using sick or safe time under this program.

Another significant change is the prohibition on non-compete agreements. Any agreement made between an employee and employer on or after July 1, 2023, that seeks to restrict the employee’s ability to work will be void and unenforceable. Employers can still prohibit employees from soliciting their customers or sharing confidential information or trade secrets.

In a similar vein, franchise agreements that prevent workers at one franchise from moving to another are now unenforceable. This change is effective immediately.

Changes also include additional protections against discrimination, such as the CROWN Act, which prohibits discrimination based on traits associated with race, such as hair style or texture. The legislature also modified the definition of “gender identity” to ensure that transgender and gender non-conforming people are protected from workplace discrimination.

Additionally, protections for pregnant and nursing employees have been expanded, ensuring that reasonable pregnancy accommodations and lactation breaks must be granted. Nursing mothers are now entitled to three lactation breaks per day without any reduction in pay.

Other changes include prohibiting mandatory meetings related to political or religious matters, and meetings aimed at discouraging union organizing, allowing construction workers to hold contractors liable when subcontractors violate wage theft laws, prohibiting employers from asking about pay history, and adding workplace protections for warehouse and meatpacking employees.

The 2023 legislative session in Minnesota has brought about significant advancements in employee rights. From the implementation of paid family and medical leave to the prohibition of non-compete agreements, along with expanded protections against discrimination and improved workplace safety measures, these changes mark a transformative moment for workers in the state. If you are experiencing discrimination or retaliation in violation of any of the above laws, contact Kitzer Rochel. Our experienced employment law attorneys would be happy to discuss your case and understand your legal rights and options.

Mayor Jacob Frey Praises Kitzer Rochel at Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

On June 6, 2023, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey proclaimed it “Kitzer Rochel Day” in the City of Minneapolis. Mayor Frey praised the law firm’s commitment to fighting discrimination and retaliation in Minneapolis and throughout Minnesota. Mayor Frey made the announcement at Kitzer Rochel, PLLP’s ribbon cutting ceremony, celebrating the law firm’s new office in the Capella Tower in Downtown Minneapolis.

Kitzer Rochel, a boutique employee rights law firm, has been located in downtown Minneapolis since its founding in 2020. The law firm is committed to staying in downtown Minneapolis and helping the City continue its great work recovering in the wake of the pandemic.

For more information about Kitzer Rochel and questions about employment law, contact us today.

OSHA Retaliation Explained: Reporting Unsafe Working Conditions

As an employee, you have the right to work in a safe environment. If you believe that your workplace is unsafe, you have the right to report it without fear of retaliation. Unfortunately, many employers do not take kindly to employees who report unsafe working conditions, and they may retaliate against them. This retaliation is not only illegal, but it can also be dangerous for the employee and their coworkers.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) is a federal law that sets standards for workplace safety and health. Under this law, employees have the right to report unsafe working conditions to their employer or to OSHA without fear of retaliation. Retaliation can come in many forms, such as demotion, termination, reduced hours, or other adverse actions.

OSHA has a Whistleblower Protection Program that protects employees who report unsafe working conditions from retaliation. This program protects employees who report violations of OSHA regulations, as well as those who participate in OSHA inspections or proceedings.

If you believe that you have been retaliated against for reporting unsafe working conditions, you may have the right to pursue a claim. Contact experienced employment attorneys today to learn more about your rights.

Brian Rochel to Present on Multiple CLEs at 2023 Upper Midwest Employment Law Institute (ELI)

Brian Rochel will be presenting on two separate CLE panels at the 2023 Upper Midwest Employment Law Institute (ELI), on May 18-19, 2023, in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

First, Brian will be moderating a panel titled, “From Remote Work to Quiet Quitting and Work-Life Balance–Acting on Changing Perceptions and Realities Around Work and Workplaces.” The panel will explore a range of interconnected topics, focusing on the post-COVID workplace and employees’ changing perceptions and expectations.

Second, Brian will participate in a panel focusing on employment remedies and damages available in lawsuits. The panel is titled, “What’s the Harm: Evaluating and Proving Damages.”

The Upper Midwest ELI is one of the largest and most highly regarded employment law events in the country, featuring speakers from across the United States and drawing participants from various states in the midwest.