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MINNESOTA 
LEGAL SERVICES

Joshua Newville, Minnesota Employment Lawyer, Civil Rights Attorney, and Mediator

Minnesota Employment Lawyer, Civil Rights Attorney, and Mediator

As a Minnesota employment lawyer and civil rights attorney, I focus on protecting people's civil rights and liberties in a variety of contexts – such as employment. I advise and advocate for those who seek justice and fairness – including employees, employers, discrimination victims, and businesses. As a Minnesota mediator, I seek to help parties resolve their disputes. 

 

Minnesota's Legal Landscape

 

Minnesota's legal landscape is characterized by a robust infrastructure, a commitment to fair and efficient administration of justice, and a diverse community of legal professionals dedicated to upholding the law.

Minnesota Laws Regarding Employment and Civil Rights

A comprehensive range of Minnesota employment laws and civil rights protections play a significant role in the state's legal landscape, covering areas such as discriminationpolice misconductsexual harassment, and retaliation. For example, a broad array of Minnesota and U.S. laws govern the rights and responsibilities of both employers and employees, ensuring a fair and equitable workplace, including Minnesota-specific regulations that cover contracts and severance agreements, wage and hour laws, whistleblowers, workplace safety, and much more.

Minnesota's State Judicial System

Minnesota's judicial system consists of three levels: District Courts, the Court of Appeals, and the Minnesota Supreme Court. 

  • Minnesota District Court: District courts are the trial courts where most cases begin in Minnesota. They handle civil, criminal, family, probate, juvenile, traffic, and conciliation (small claims) court cases.

  • The Minnesota Court of Appeals: The Court of Appeals provides Minnesota citizens with prompt and deliberate review of all final decisions of the trial courts, state agencies, and local governments.

  • The Minnesota Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is the court of last resort and has the final legal word on Minnesota state constitutional questions and interpretations of Minnesota law.

Federal Courts in Minnesota

The federal courts in Minnesota fall under the Eighth Circuit of the United States federal court system. They consist of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Additionally, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota handles bankruptcy cases. Here's a brief description of each of these courts:

  • U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota: The U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota is the federal trial court that has jurisdiction over the entire state of Minnesota. It hears both civil and criminal cases that arise under federal law or involve federal statutes, treaties, or the U.S. Constitution. The District of Minnesota has four courthouses located in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Fergus Falls. 

  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit is the federal appellate court that reviews decisions of the U.S. District Courts within its circuit, which includes Minnesota. It hears appeals from the district courts located in seven states: Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The Eighth Circuit's decisions can be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. The court's headquarters are in St. Louis, Missouri, but it hears cases in various locations within the circuit -- including the Twin Cities.

  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota: The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota is a federal court that handles all bankruptcy matters. The purpose of the bankruptcy system is to give individuals and businesses a fresh start when they become insolvent. The court is based in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

State Agencies in Minnesota

There are several state agencies in Minnesota that have specific mandates to enforce laws involving employment and civil rights regulations. These agencies provide resources and avenues of complaint for individuals who believe their rights have been violated, and they may take enforcement action against those who violate the law. These include:

  • Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI): DLI oversees a wide range of labor issues in the state, from wage and hour laws to occupational safety. It's also responsible for the state's workers' compensation system, and it ensures that employers are meeting state standards for safe and healthy workplaces.

  • Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED): While DEED is primarily an economic agency, it does play a role in employment law enforcement by promoting equal employment opportunities and nondiscrimination in the workforce, particularly in relation to jobs and training programs funded by the state.

  • Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR): In addition to enforcement by private attorneys, this is the primary state agency responsible for enforcing the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment (as well as housing, public accommodations, public services, and education) on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, public assistance status, age, sexual orientation, familial status, and local human rights commission activity.

Federal Agencies in Minnesota

There are also several federal agencies in Minnesota that are specifically involved in enforcing employment and civil rights laws. These include:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting job discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, transgender status, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.

  • U.S. Department of Labor (DOL): The DOL enforces several major federal labor laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which covers minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor provisions; the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires employers to provide unpaid leave for certain medical and family reasons; and laws governing workplace safety, workers' compensation, and labor relations.

  • National Labor Relations Board (NLRB): The NLRB protects the rights of employees to engage in "concerted activity" (like forming, joining, or assisting labor organizations and bargaining collectively), and it prohibits employers and unions from engaging in unfair labor practices.

  • U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) - Civil Rights Division: This federal agency enforces federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status, and national origin.

Minnesota State Bar Association

The Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) plays a significant role in the legal landscape. It offers resources for both legal professionals and the public, and provides continuing education, legal publications, and networking opportunities for its members.

Legal Education and Practice

Minnesota is home to three law schools: the University of Minnesota, Mitchell Hamline, and the University of St. Thomas. These institutions produce a steady stream of law graduates who enter various fields of law practice within the state.

The state's lawyers offer expertise in all areas of law, serving in capacities such as private practice attorneys, corporate counsel, public defenders, prosecutors, judges, and legal aid providers.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (Mediation and Arbitration)

Minnesota also has a strong tradition of using alternative dispute resolution (ADR), including mediation and arbitration, to settle disputes out of court. The Minnesota Judicial Branch maintains a list of qualified neutrals who can mediate a wide range of conflicts, from family disputes to employment issues.

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