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Brian Rochel Named Author of the Year by FBA L&E Section

Brian Rochel was presented the “Author of the Year Award” by the Labor & Employment Section of the Federal Bar Association’s (FBA) at its annual meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. The award was given to Brian “in recognition of deep appreciation for outstanding contributions to Section publications.” Brian served as a volunteer editor of the Section’s monthly Circuit Updates, co-authored the Circuit Update for the Eighth Circuit along with Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel partner Phillip Kitzer, and also co-authored an article for the Labouring Oar in spring 2015, also in conjunction with Phillip Kitzer. 

Brian was also named the Co-Chair of the Publications and Public Relations Committee of the Labor & Employment Section at the FBA annual meeting as well. Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel congratulates Brian for his hard work and dedication to the labor and employment field. 

BTR FBA

Rochel Co-Organizes and Moderates FBA Labor & Employment Seminar

 

On August 26, 2015, the Federal Bar Association’s (FBA) Labor & Employment Section hosted a continuing legal education (CLE) seminar. The seminar was co-hosted with the Minnesota Chapter of the FBA, and was held at Faegre Baker Daniels in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Brian Rochel of Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel helped organize the event along with fellow Labor & Employment Committee members Corie Tarara, of Seaton Peters Revnew and  Joel Schroeder of Faegre Baker Daniels.

The seminar featured three separate panels: (1) What’s New at the EEOC in the Wake of Recent Supreme Court Decisions; (2) Employment Law Implications following the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court Term: Integrity Staffing, UPS, Abercrombie & Obergefell; and (3) Improving Collegiality and Civility in Employment Litigation. Brian Rochel moderated the first panel which featured the new Director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chicago District, Julianne Bowman. Ms. Bowman presented along with long-time EEOC Trial Lawyer Nicholas Pladson out of the Minneapolis office. 

The seminar featured several prominent panelists, including Chief Judge John R. Tunheim of the United States District of Minnesota and The Honorable Steven E. Rau, who currently serves as Magistrate Judge for the District of Minnesota. Click here for a full agenda of the seminar.

Contact Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel for more information.

Rochel FBA Seminar

8th Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment on FMLA Claims

The Eighth Circuit reversed summary judgment on an FMLA entitlement and discrimination claim.  In Hudson v. Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., the Court found that sufficient evidence of FMLA discrimination and interference existed to allow the matter to proceed to trial.   ___ F.3d. ___, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 8479 (8th Cir. May 28, 2015).  

Plaintiff Delbert Hudson was fired after taking a short leave for back problems and depression.  Hudson’s girlfriend, also an employee at Tyson, told Hudson’s supervisor that he would be absent for a few days, and Plaintiff texted his supervisor about being out. When he returned to work, Hudson was fired for failing to call in each day pursuant to company policy.  Hudson sued for FMLA interference and discrimination.

The district court granted summary judgment on both claims, and the Court of Appeals reversed.  First, the Court held that Tyson failed to restore Hudson to the same or similar position after his leave, as required by the FMLA.  Tyson argued that it “returned Hudson to his normal job duties for a person Human Resources was investigating,” but the Court rejected that argument because Tyson failed to cite any authority to support its legal theory.

Next, the Court held that Hudson FMLA discrimination claim should go to trial.  Specifically, the Court held that Tyson’s shifting reason for termination (first for failing to provide notice, then for not providing notice in the appropriate manner), and evidence suggesting Tyson did not consistently enforce the call-in policy could convince a jury that its alleged reason for termination was a pretext to discrimination.

The decision can be found here.  The FMLA entitles employees to take legally-protected leave, and protects employees from discrimination and retaliation for excercising rights under the FMLA. In addition, many states (including Minnesota) have passed their own versions of leave laws that may afford even more protections than the FMLA. If you have questions about the FMLA, or any other employment law issue, contact Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel

Vildan Teske Co-Moderates FBA Panel on Diversity in Legal Practice

Vildan Teske co-moderated a continuing legal education (CLE) seminar today sponsored by the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association entitled “Cultivating a Diverse Pipeline of New Attorneys in Uncertain Legal Times.”  The seminar was followed by a reception at the Radisson Blu in downtown Minneapolis.  The CLE kicked off with remarks by U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung. The panel of speakers included Valerie Jensen, Executive Director of Twin Cities Diversity in Practice; Anthony Winer, Professor of Law at William Mitchell College of Law; Tracy M. Smith, Deputy General Counsel for the University of Minnesota, and; Dr. Luiza Dreasher, Assistant Dean and Director of the Office of Multicultural and International Inclusion at the William Mitchell College of Law.  The seminar explored the challenges, obstacles, and the successes in achieving a diverse pipeline of attorneys in Minnesota, as well as the effect of recent U.S. Supreme Court opinions on admission decisions in higher education.

Click here for Minnesota Lawyer’s coverage of the event.

Kitzer & Rochel Publish Article in FBA Labor & Employment Magazine

Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel partners Brian Rochel and Phillip Kitzer co-authored an article in the Spring issue of The Labouring Oar, published by the Federal Bar Association’s (FBA) Labor and Employment Law Section. Phillip and Brian wrote the article along with Frances Baillon, partner at Baillon Thome. The article, titled “Is McDonnell Douglas Too Burdensome? Circuits Question the Utility of the Decades Old Burden-Shifting Model,” analyzes recent court decisions calling into question the usefulness of the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting scheme.

Noting the varying approaches in the federal circuits of applying the McDonnell Douglas test to employment claims, at least two judges have advocated for doing away with burden shifting, otherwise called the indirect method, altogether because of the confusion caused by its application.  District Judge Paul Magnuson, sitting on the Eighth Circuit panel by designation, provided a lengthy exposition of McDonnell Douglas in Griffith v. City of Des Moines, 387 F.3d 733 (8th Cir. 2004), calling the direct/indirect evidence distinction a “legal fiction,” and opined that it “should have fallen into disuse after Congress amended the Civil Rights Act in 1991.”  Likewise, Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Diane Wood provided a well-reasoned critique of the indirect method in Coleman v. Donahoe, 667 F.3d 835 (7th Cir. 2012).  Judge Wood wrote, “Courts manage tort litigation every day without the ins and outs of these methods of proof, and I see no reason why employment discrimination litigation (including cases alleging retaliation) could not be handled in the same straight-forward way.” The article concluded by suggesting the United States Supreme Court may ultimately take the issue to resolve the confusion within the circuits.

Click here to view the full article.

Rochel Moderates Panel of Federal Law Clerks

Brian Rochel moderated a panel of federal law clerks discussing practice pointers for employment and labor attorneys. The panel, entitled “Federal Law Clerks’ Tips on Trial and Dispositive Motions,” featured Katherine Bruce, law clerk to the Honorable Donovan W. Frank, Mark Betinsky, law clerk to the Honorable Richard J. Kyle, and Elizabeth Welter, law clerk to the Honorable Patrick J. Schiltz. The panel was part of the Federal Bar Association Labor & Employment Section‘s fall seminar. For more information on the seminar, including the federal law clerk panel, click here.

 

Vildan Teske Receives FBA Outstanding Achievement Award

Vildan Teske was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Federal Bar Association Robyn Spalter Outstanding Achievement Award.  The award is given to only one attorney in the nation and is named after past FBA president, Robyn Spalter. It recognizes one lawyer each year who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and professional achievement. The Robyn Spalter Outstanding Achievement Award was presented to Vildan at the FBA’s national convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico on September 26, 2013.

Click here for an FBA article discussing Vildan’s receiving the award.