Phillip Kitzer Presents on COVID-19 Employment Issues to Minnesota Lawyers

On December 8, 2020, Phillip Kitzer presented “COVID-19: A Plaintiffs’ Employment Attorney’s Perspective” to the Minnesota chapter of the National Employment Lawyers Association along with Elizabeth Binczik, attorney at Fabian May & Anderson, PLLP.

The program covered a variety of employment issues that arise for Minnesota employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether working from home under a stay-at-home order or caring for a child when school is closed, the pandemic has affected nearly every employee in the state. Phillip and Elizabeth discussed various laws that apply to employers during this time through programs such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), but also how employer bias and discrimination related to COVID-19 can violate employee protection laws.

If you feel you have experienced discrimination or retaliation at work related to COVID-19, our attorneys at Kitzer Rochel are here to help. We advocate on behalf of employees facing discrimination, retaliation, and whistleblower issues in the workplace.

Brian Rochel Interviewed Regarding COVID-19 and Employment Law

On July 6, 2020, TKKR partner Brian Rochel was featured in an interview by Minnesota Public Radio about current legal protections employees have in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read the article here.

Brian discussed the real fear many employees have that if they raise concerns related to COVID-19, they will be retaliated against, by being fired and forced to search for employment during the current difficult economic time. He also discussed how the legal protections related to COVID-19 are uncharted territory for Minnesota courts and the importance of discussing any potential issues with an employment lawyer.

Under Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s Peacetime Emergency Executive Order 20-54, employees are, among other things, protected against retaliation for reporting COVID-19 workplace concerns or refusing to work in conditions that they, in good faith, believe could potentially expose them to COVID-19.

All of these protections contain important caveats, so if you have questions about Executive Order 20-54, or COVID-19 at work, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer. If you are an employee who has experienced difficult circumstances with your employer related to COVID-19, we are here to help. Please contact Teske, Katz, Kitzer, and Rochel, PLLP. We advocate on behalf of employees facing discrimination, retaliation, and whistleblower related issues in the workplace.

Phillip Kitzer Participates on #MeToo Panel at FBA National Conference

On September 14, 2018, TKKR Employment Attorney Phillip Kitzer spoke on a panel sponsored by the Labor & Employment Section of the FBA at the Federal Bar Association’s National Conference in New York City. The panel, titled “#MeToo: Implementation and Administration of an Effective Anti-Harassment Policy,” discussed various legal issues arising out of the #MeToo movement, including addressing complaints in the workplace, effective training of employees and management, responding to EEOC charges, and recent tax law changes involving settlements of claims involving sexual harassment and abuse. The panel was moderated by Donna Currault of Gordon, Arata, Montgomery, Barnett LLC in New Orleans, LA, and included the Hon. Lisa M. Smith, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of New York, and Mary A. Smith, Principal at Jackson Lewis, P.C. 

Employment Attorney Phillip Kitzer Presents on Sexual Orientation Discrimination in San Juan, Puerto Rico

On August 3, 2018, TKKR partner Phillip Kitzer presented at a half-day advanced labor and employment law seminar in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Mr. Kitzer presented on the changing law related to LGBT discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The presentation covered the history of “sex discrimination” since the bill’s passage, reviewed seminal cases such as Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, and discussed recent watershed cases such as Hively v. Ivy Tech. Commt. College of Indiana and Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc. In Hively, the 7th Circuit (en banc) found that sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination, and therefore prohibited under Title VII. In Zarda, the 2nd Circuit (en banc) held the same.

The seminar was co-hosted by the Puerto Rico Chapter and the Labor and Employment Law Section of the Federal Bar Association. Mr. Kitzer currently serves as a board member for the Labor and Employment Law Section.

Phillip Kitzer & Brian Rochel Present on Disability and Leave Laws at Minnesota CLE

On July 24, 2018, TKKR attorneys Phillip Kitzer and Brian Rochel presented a webcast sponsored by Minnesota CLE as part of the Workers’ Compensation series. The webcast, titled The Intersection of Disability, FMLA and Workers’ Compensation Retaliation Laws, addressed the complicated employment issues that arise for employers and employees when dealing with a work-related injury, disabilities, and need for FMLA-protected leave of absences. The presentation focused on various theories of liability under each of the statutes, including new theories that have developed in the past several years.

Phillip and Brian are both experienced litigators and have each represented hundreds of employees throughout their careers. If you have questions about your rights under disability laws or have questions about workers’ compensation retaliation or the FMLA, contact our office for a consultation today.

 

Phillip Kitzer Presents on Panel at Minnesota FBA Federal Practice Seminar

On April 27, 2018, Phillip Kitzer joined co-panelists Judge Jeffrey Keyes and Judge Hildy Bowbeeron a panel titled “Representing Clients in Mediation” at the Minnesota chapter of the Federal Bar Association’s (FBA) 44th Annual Federal Practice Seminar. Moderated by Antone Melton-Meaux, the panel discussed various techniques and considerations in mediating cases and representing clients in mediation.

The Federal Practice Seminar is an annual event hosted by the Minnesota chapter of the Federal Bar Association and features wide-ranging topics for legal practitioners.

 

 

Phillip Kitzer Presents on Transgender Rights in the Workplace at 8th Circuit NELA’s Biennial Convention

On April 6, 2018, Phillip Kitzer participated on a panel at the 8th Circuit chapter of the National Employment Lawyers Association’s (NELA) biennial convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota on transgender rights in the workplace. Along with co-panelists Joni Thome, Ferne Wolf, and moderator Jill Silverstein, the panel discussed trends in the law, litigation strategies, and best practices to identify issues and protect the rights of transgender clients. The Eighth Circuit NELA Conference is a two-day conference designed for attorneys and professionals who represent employees and features presentations by leading plaintiffs’ lawyers in the Eighth Circuit.

Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel’s attorneys regularly represent employees in employment disputes. If you have questions about employment law, or would like to learn more about your rights in the workplace, contact us today.

Favorable Settlement Changes City of Minneapolis Policies for Disabled Workers

On December 22, 2017, Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel finalized a settlement agreement in Stewart, et al. v. The City of Minneapolis, an employment discrimination class action lawsuit. The agreement included significant policy changes that benefit City of Minneapolis employees who are or become disabled.

Laurence Stewart, the named plaintiff, is a former employee of Minneapolis in its Public Works Department. Stewart sought classwide relief for himself and all other similar employees. The Complaint alleged that the City’s return to work policy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) because it failed to provide reasonable accommodation for disabled workers.

The settlement agreement provides that the City will now conduct multiple assessments for reasonable accommodations for all employees who are eligible for its Return to Work Job Bank.

A full press release with details of the policy changes and copy of the Amended Complaint are available here:

Here is a previous post regarding the Stewart v. City of Minneapolis litigation.

Mr. Stewart is represented by Brian Rochel and Marisa Katz of Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel, PLLP. Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel is an employment and class action law firm representing employees in Minnesota and across the country.

For more information, or if you have questions about this lawsuit, contact Brian Rochel at (612) 767-0520 or at rochel@kitzerrochel.com.

Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel Attorney Phillip Kitzer Moderates Panel at FBA Labor & Employment Biennial Conference

Attorney Phillip Kitzer recently served on a panel at the FBA Labor and Employment Biennial Conference in San Antonio on a topic titled, “How to Work with In-House Employment Counsel – Tips for Both Plaintiff and Defense.” Additional panelists included Brittany Mayer-Schuler, Vice President of Legal Affairs for Elior North America, Melissa M. Heidman, Vice President & Associate General Counsel, Noodles & Company, and Matthew Revord, Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer, General Counsel, and Secretary, Potbelly Sandwich Works. The panel discussed tips for plaintiffs lawyers on effectively engaging with the company, and tips for defense lawyers on retaining business, budgeting, communication, and litigation styles. The FBA Labor and Employment Biennial Conference is held every other year and features nationally recognized speakers in labor and employment law.

EEOC Reaches Significant Settlement in Prayer Accommodation Case

On August 6, 2017, the EEOC reached a significant settlement in a case against Electrolux. The case involved claims by a group of Muslim employees who were denied religious accommodations.

The employees had asked the company to allow them to break their fast shortly after sunset in accordance with the observation of Ramadan, the Islamic holiday that involves fasting from dawn to sunset every day for approximately one month annually. Electrolux changed its break time policies and interfered with the employees’ religious practices.

The claims were brought by the EEOC under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That law requires employers to attempt to make reasonable accommodations to employees if it does not cause any undue hardship to the employer. Minnesota law provides similar protections as well.

The settlement is a significant victory for all parties. It allows the Muslim employees to practice their sincere religious beliefs, while not causing an undue burden on the employer. Terms of the settlement include:

  • Electrolux will adjust break time schedule during the entire month of Ramadan to allow Muslim employees to pray and break their Ramadan fasts shortly after sunset in a safe environment, away from the production area.
  • Electrolux will also provide training to its employees at the St. Cloud facility on the requirements related to religious accommodation under federal law.
  • The company also agreed to report to the EEOC all future requests it receives for religious accommodations and how the requests were addressed by the company.

Ramadan began on August 9, shortly after the parties’ settlement in this case.

Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel handles all types of employment law claims, including religious discrimination and failure to accommodate. Our firm has represented Muslim employees on a group basis for failing to provide reasonable religious accommodations.

If you have questions about your right to religious accommodations, contact Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel today.