Employment Law for Employees in the Twin Cities
At the law office of Cloutier Law Offices, PA our lawyers and staff are passionate about protecting the rights of workers throughout Minnesota. We represent individuals who have been subjected to discrimination in the workplace, including bias based on gender (including pregnancy issues), disability, sexual orientation, race, age, and religious affiliation. We also handle retaliation cases where the employee is being discriminated against for union activity or whistleblower (qui tam) activities. Our attorneys will review your severance packages and handle wage and hour disputes as well.
Have you been discriminated against?
The law regarding employment discrimination has certain distinct requirements. Minnesota is an "at-will" employment state. This means that any employer can fire any employee for virtually any reason if you do not have a contract, or if you are not a member of a protected class. In general, Minnesota and Federal governments protect employees who are being discriminated against on the basis of race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, religion, or disability. If you blow the whistle on your employer for illegal actions, or you are trying to form a union and your employer retaliates against you, you can also be protected under the law.
In order to prove that you have been or are being discriminated against, you must show specific instances of discrimination. A general feeling that you are being discriminated against because you are a member of a protected class is unlikely to be enough to win this kind of case in court.
What can you do to establish discrimination?
1) If you are a member of a protected class, but it is not obvious to your employer, make it known to the employer. For example, if you gay or lesbian, but you have not been open about it at work, then your employer can claim as a defense that they did not know you were gay. This would also apply if you believe you are being discriminated against for a disability or membership in a particular religion.
2) If your company has an employee handbook, make sure you follow your company's policies and procedures for reporting the harassment or discrimination to the proper person or office. For example, if your immediate supervisor is harassing you, but his or her supervisor does not know about it, the company could defend itself by claiming they were unaware of the harassment. If you take steps to make a report through human resources, the company heads cannot claim lack of knowledge. If your employer fails to remedy the situation and/or the discrimination or harassment continues after a report to Human Resources, then it is much easier to establish a case against the company.
3) Document. Document. Document. If you believe your employer is trying to get rid of you for a discriminatory reason, make notes of everything that seems wrong to you, and keep copies of all relevant notes and documents at home. Do not leave them at work. If you are fired, you may not have access to those documents again.
What NOT to do.
DO NOT give your employer a reason to fire you. If the employer can establish a legitimate basis for terminating your employment, there might be nothing we can do to help you. Be on time. Follow procedures. Do not take unexcused absences.
DO NOT voluntarily quit your job before speaking with an attorney. Although there is a provision in the law regarding "constructive discharge," this may be difficult to prove. Your case will almost always be stronger if you stay on the job and wait for them to fire you. That said, there are some situations where the discrimination is so severe that you have no choice.
If You Are in a Union
Your case might be handled differently if you belong to a union.
When to Call an Attorney
Feel free to call us if you are experiencing harassment from your employer or suspect you are about to be fired. It can sometimes be helpful to have an attorney long before you are terminated. Please contact us at (612) 332-5100 today for an initial free consultation or email us through our website at the contact us page.
Please see our resources page if you have further questions, or feel free to email us for something more specific. Or view one of our other pages on: