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Minneapolis Civil Rights Law Blog

Non-compete agreements showing up in low-wage, low-skill jobs

Minnesota is home to a number of high-profile companies doing business nationally and internationally. The executives and other top-level players in these companies are paid handsomely for their knowledge, expertise and leadership skills. But because they are usually entrusted with company-owned intellectual property and business secrets, their contracts usually include a non-compete agreement.

These agreements protect a company in the event that one of their employees is tempted by a better offer from a competitor. Employees typically agree that they won’t work for a competitor (or do substantially similar work) for a certain period of time or within a certain geographical radius from the business they are leaving. In the type of high-paying positions mentioned above, non-compete clauses are often necessary and appropriate.

Pregnancy discrimination news story case gets employer's attention

In one of our posts last week, we wrote about an important pregnancy discrimination case that will soon go before the U.S. Supreme Court. The practice of pregnancy discrimination is widespread, and this ruling will hopefully clarify the legal responsibilities of employers.

That being said, there are many cases in which employers know they are breaking the law but choose to fire or retaliate against pregnant employees anyway. These are usually low-wage jobs that the employee cannot afford to lose – especially with a baby on the way.

Search and Seizure case to go before the U.S. Supreme Court

The Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protects each of us from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. Generally, this means that police officers must obtain a warrant before searching our property, especially our homes.

But how does the Fourth Amendment apply to searches of our vehicles – particularly if the vehicles were “searched” from the outside by a drug-sniffing dog? These are questions that will hopefully be answered in an important drug crimes case going before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Minnesota's drug overdose fatality rate calls for new approach

When national news breaks about a string of drug overdose deaths in one region of the country, many individuals reassure themselves that “it could never happen here.” But it can and is happening here in Minnesota.

According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Minnesota Department of Health, drug overdose deaths last year surpassed the number of deaths related to car accidents. Unsurprisingly, prescription pain relievers and heroin proved to be the most frequent killers.

SCOTUS to hear highly anticipated pregnancy discrimination case

The U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing arguments in a multitude of important cases this session. But one employment discrimination case that the Court has agreed to hear could impact close to half of the U.S. workforce in one way or another. It is a pregnancy discrimination case involving shipping giant United Parcel Service.

At the center of the case is a woman named Peggy Young. In 2006, Young had already been working for UPS for about seven years when she became pregnant through in-vitro fertilization. When sought an accommodation that she not be asked to lift packages heavier than 20 pounds, the company refused to accommodate her or to temporarily move her to light-duty work. She was forced to take unpaid leave for the final six-and-a-half months that she was pregnant, and she also lost her health insurance and other benefits during this time.

SWAT-style raid causes serious injuries to 19-month-old baby

About a month ago, we wrote about a law enforcement trend that has many Americans understandably worried. Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teams have been a police resource for decades, but they were originally meant to be used only in the most dangerous and volatile situations. This includes riots, hostage negotiations, etc.

But since the 1980s, the use of SWAT teams nationwide has increased 1,400 percent. Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using SWAT teams (or employing their tactics and weaponry) to serve drug crimes search warrants, even if there is no reason to believe that suspects are armed or violent. This is a problem because the weaponry and forceful tactics SWAT teams utilize can cause serious collateral damage and needlessly escalate an otherwise non-violent scenario.

Abercrombie & Fitch discrimination case going to Supreme Court

Every brand has its “thing.” Especially in the competitive industry of fashion and clothing, anything a brand can do to set itself apart is a good thing . . . well, almost anything.

Abercrombie & Fitch apparently sought to establish itself as the clothing retailer whose “thing” is mean-spirited and bigoted exclusivity. Both the company and its products have been boycotted by a number of groups for being racist, sexist and just plain offensive. A&F has also been embroiled in numerous lawsuits over its employment practices, including allegations of religious discrimination.

Tides are beginning to turn for same-sex marriage nationwide

In November 2012, Minnesota voters were asked to decide whether our state constitution should be amended to limit the definition of marriage to “one man and one woman.” Although the vote was closer than it should have been, Minnesotans ultimately decided against banning gay marriage.

Less than one year later, same-sex marriage was legalized by the legislature. Minnesota has once again proven itself to be a leader in promoting gay and lesbian rights, and civil rights in general. As many other states now grapple with the issue of same-sex marriage, a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court may tip the balance in favor of marriage equality.

Sex crimes and Minnesota's age of consent laws: Part II

In our last post, we began a discussion about age of consent laws. Even though teenagers are often physically mature enough to have sex before becoming adults, they are not considered mentally and emotionally mature enough to consent to sex until they reach a certain age. In Minnesota, the age of consent is 16.

However, Minnesota and many other states have legal exceptions to the age of consent as it applies to relationships between juveniles and authority figures in their lives. In cases of sex between teachers and students, for instance, the age of consent would be 18. Other examples include coaches and employers.

Sex crimes and Minnesota's age of consent laws: Part I

When it comes to consenting to sex, the issue is not always as simple as “no means no” or “yes means yes.” Indeed, consent is a legal right as much as it is a personal one, and there are laws that govern who can legally consent and under what circumstances.

The issue becomes especially tricky when the younger partner in a sexual relationship is a teenager near the age of consent. In Minnesota, the minimum age at which a person can give consent for sex is 16. If, however, the older partner is an authority figure in the younger partner’s life (such as a teacher, coach, employer, etc.), the age of consent is raised to 18.

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