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Minneapolis Law Blog

The gender wage gap is especially wide for women of color

The employment landscape in America is far from level. And the barriers that exist are not just barriers to employment. They also include barriers within employment. On average, women in the United States earn just 78 cents for every dollar men earn for the same work. The pay gap is also evident between races, where white workers tend to earn more than workers of color.

Because gender discrimination and race discrimination are both rampant, women of color often find themselves doubly disadvantaged. According to the Center for American Progress, the wage gap is widest for women who are African American, Hispanic/Latina and American Indian/Alaska Native.

One program offers successful alternative to the war on drugs

For the last half-century, combating drug abuse has been one of the most vexing issues in the criminal justice system. Decades after America launched a "war on drugs," neither side is anywhere close to victory. Yet the battles are getting more expensive and causing more collateral damage.

The approach of getting "tough on crime" has not reduced arrest rates or recidivism rates. So what's the answer? According to a recent press release from the Drug Policy Alliance, one major American city has had success with a strategy that could someday be adopted here in Minnesota.

Unconscious racial bias the focus of police officer training

Our recent posts have been focused on the relationship between law enforcement officers and the communities in which they work. When the relationship is based on mutual respect and trust, problems tend to be minimal and everyone benefits. When the relationship is based on suspicion and presumption of guilt, however, it becomes a breeding ground for the types of fatal interactions we have been seeing around the country.

As we wrote last week, there is plenty of work to be done right here in Minnesota. Reviews of law enforcement records and data from Minneapolis suggest that racial bias may be a problem - even if the bias is unconscious.

Understanding 'religious freedom' laws and LGBT rights

Many Minnesotans have been hearing news reports about so-called "religious freedom" laws, but are not sure what these laws do or whom they are intended to protect. Others have heard that they essentially legalize discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

In today's post, we'll discuss one state's law in greater detail. We'll also discuss how Minnesotans have played a role in getting the law changed to prohibit LGBT discrimination.

Forums strive to educate MN's Somali community about civil rights

Our post yesterday focused on scrutiny of the Minneapolis Police Department. Although incidents involving, and complaints about, the MPD have not been nearly as serious as others around the country, the Twin Cities region nonetheless has some work to do when it comes to improving relationships between police and communities of color.

That includes the large Somali community living in Minnesota. In response to the national stories of officer-involved shootings, excessive force and civil rights violations, two forums have already been held this year to help Somali Minnesotans understand their rights during interactions with police. The second forum, which was held earlier this month, had the descriptive title of "Interacting With The Police: Learn Your Rights."

Are Mpls. police disproportionately detaining African Americans?

Law enforcement agencies in the United States have faced more suspicion and public scrutiny in the past year than at perhaps any other time in recent history. Numerous incidents involving white officers who fatally shoot unarmed black suspects have raised serious questions about how police interact with communities of color.

Minnesota has not been left out of the conversation or the scrutiny. Earlier this month, a civilian review board called the Police Conduct Oversight Commission released a report questioning whether the Minneapolis Police Department's practices may be unfairly targeting African Americans.

Amazon accused by warehouse workers of illegal wage confiscation

No one enjoys or feels respected working in a micro-managed work environment. It's one thing for an employer to have high expectations of employee performance. It's quite another matter, however, for managers to enforce unreasonably rigid rules about punctuality, productivity and break periods.

Such companies are not simply unpleasant; they are often guilty of employment law violations. One company that has been especially scrutinized is Amazon. While the internet retail giant does not yet have any distribution warehouses in Minnesota, most Minnesotans have purchased products from the company's site.

Is fraternity's possible defamation lawsuit a smart move? Part II

In our last post, we began a discussion about the now-retracted story in Rolling Stone Magazine. Late last year, the magazine published a story about an alleged gang rape committed by members of a fraternity at the University of Virginia. It came at a time when campus sexual assault was receiving a lot of media attention at schools around the country, including here in Minnesota.

The story has been discredited and the fraternity is now considering a defamation lawsuit. As we wrote in our last post, however, a lawsuit could end up hurting the fraternity's reputation more than the original incident did.

Is fraternity's possible defamation lawsuit a smart move? Part I

By now, most Americans are familiar with a controversial article printed late last year in Rolling Stone Magazine. It contained allegations by a young woman at the University of Virginia that she had been gang raped by members of one of the school's fraternities. The story came at a time when schools in Minnesota and around the country were facing scrutiny for how they handled reports from female students about sexual assaults.

Shortly after the Rolling Stone article was published, other news outlets challenged the veracity of the story. Under pressure and presented with contradictory evidence, Rolling Stone retracted the article and issued an apology. Now, representatives of the fraternity have stated publicly that they are considering a defamation lawsuit against the alleged rape victim, the article's author, Rolling Stone or all three.

Do you know your rights during interactions with police?

Many attorneys who practice criminal defense bring a broad range of experience to their chosen practice area. Before becoming a defense attorney, some work as prosecutors, judges, probation officers and in other jobs within the criminal justice system. This type of broad experience is valuable because it helps the defense attorney anticipate any challenges and understand how the prosecution will likely proceed.

Defense attorneys also understand how ignorance of one's rights can lead to problems during interactions with police. Well-meaning individuals often end up waiving their rights or cooperating in their own conviction because they think they must answer every question and comply with every request.

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