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Minneapolis Civil Rights Law Blog

Religious discrimination case goes before Supreme Court: Part I

America was a country built on religious freedom as well as freedom of expression. Both of these rights have their limits, but they are sufficiently broad enough that most of us often take them for granted.

That is, of course, until they are challenged. In 2008, a young Muslim woman applied for a mall job at an Abercrombie & Fitch Kids store. She was 17 and had been wearing a hijab since she was 13, in accordance with her religious beliefs. She was only seeking a job at that time, but little did she know that her headscarf and her job interview would become the subjects of a religious discrimination case that was recently argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Minnesota woman's case prompts closer look at DUI laws: Part II

In our last post, we began a discussion about an interesting and controversial drunk-driving case. In 2011, a Minnesota woman named Jennifer drove drunk for about a mile between her cabin and a nearby resort. She knew she was drunk, but felt she had to drive away in order to flee from her physically abusive husband.

Jennifer was charged with driving under the influence, and her driver's license was revoked under Minnesota's implied consent law. Attorneys appealed her case all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Unfortunately, in a divided ruling in May of 2014, the Court upheld the revocation of her license.

Minnesota woman's case prompts closer look at DUI laws: Part I

Most people would be quick to agree with the assertion that "drunk driving is always wrong," or the similar assertion that "one should never drive drunk." In general, the sentiment behind these statements is true, but absolutes like "always" and "never" can be problematic. Criminal defense attorneys understand that the context in which a crime was committed is very important, and that real-life scenarios sometimes cast doubt on moral absolutes.

Consider the drunk driving case of a Minnesota woman named Jennifer. In May 2011, Jennifer had been drinking before getting into her car and driving about a mile from her cabin to a nearby resort. She felt she had no choice but to drive drunk, however, because she was fleeing a domestic violence incident incited by her husband. She had already been struck twice on the head, so the immediate danger was very clear.

Understanding defamation, including libel and slander

We live in a world of media and social media saturation. More than at any other time in history, the conversations people have and the statements they make (written or spoken) are likely to be recorded in some fashion and reviewable at a later date.

It would be logical to assume that in light of this new reality, individuals would be more careful about the things they say publicly. Unfortunately, the opposite seems to be true. Television personalities, celebrities and politicians often make inflammatory statements that are either verifiably false or, at best, doubtful. Defamation lawsuits are an important legal remedy for individuals who have harmed by untrue statements written or spoken about them.

President Obama continues push for drug policy reform

We have previously written that the war on drugs has been the longest-running, most-expensive and least-successful war in America's history. For decades, it was a legal battle moving in only one direction. Politicians have built their careers on pushing for more stringent drug laws and longer prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders. Few have ever lost an election by showing themselves to be "tough on crime."

The consequences of being tough on crime include a prison population higher than any other nation on earth. Thankfully, President Obama's two terms in office have brought some much-needed reform to the nation's drug laws and policies, and the president continues to push for a more rational approach to America's drug problem.

MN Norwegian consulate may have to pay legal fees after lawsuit

One of the unfortunate barriers to pursuing legal action against a discriminatory employer is the cost. Plaintiffs who may otherwise have a very strong case are often reluctant to pursue an employment discrimination claim for fear that their former employer will drag out the proceedings and make legal action prohibitively expensive.

This is what the Norwegian government was accused of doing by attorneys representing a Minnesota woman who sued her employer for gender-based wage discrimination. Her employer, the Norwegian consulate in the Twin Cities, allegedly paid the woman $30,000 per year less than a male co-worker with a comparable job.

Minnesota Muslims sue former employer for discrimination

After the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, there was a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment, even here in Minnesota. Many Americans were unable or unwilling to differentiate between a small minority of terrorists and a vastly larger group of peaceful Muslims. While much of the heated rhetoric, discrimination and distrust have gone away, it still persists in some parts of the state. In fact, it appears to be flourishing in at least a few workplaces.

Recently, six Minnesotans filed a religion and national origin discrimination lawsuit against Hertz rent-a-car operating out of MSP airport. The six former workers, all Muslims from East Africa, claim that they were subjected to a host of discriminatory actions, comments and policies when the MSP location came under new management.

Breathalyzer test results can (and often should) be challenged

Last week, we warned readers that law enforcement agencies across Minnesota would be increasing DUI patrols during and after the Super Bowl. Because the big game is among the biggest drinking days of the year, DUI enforcement increases as well.

During any period of increased enforcement, the risk of police officer mistakes often increases - although police can and do make mistakes even during regular enforcement periods. In light of this, defendants should not simply accept the readings provided by a breathalyzer test on faith. These test results can be challenged in several ways, with two types of challenges being especially common.

Why race is too often tied to suspicion and criminality: Part II

In a post earlier this week, we began a discussion about how race is too often tied to suspicion for African Americans, and black men in particular. On Minnesota Public Radio this week, professor and author Kiese Laymon was interviewed about a piece he wrote for in November of last year.

Laymon is an English professor at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Despite his education and status, Laymon says he is still regarded with suspicion by local police and campus police, and subjected to numerous other racial injustices by colleagues and students alike. His faculty ID card often becomes his "pass," a way of immediately showing his value by establishing his "relationship to the elite."

Why race is too often tied to suspicion and criminality: Part I

When we have discussions about race in American society, are we too insular? In other words, are we only sharing our stories and opinions with those of the same race who have stories and opinions similar to ours? Even here in a state full of "nice" Midwesterners, conversations about race and equality sound very different when discussed by white Minnesotans than when discussed by black Minnesotans.

Thankfully, we are at least attempting to have such conversations. A segment on Minnesota Public Radio this week featured an interview with college professor and author Kiese Laymon. He teaches at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. In an essay he wrote last November for, Laymon discussed the uncomfortable fact that his faculty ID card gives him instant credibility during traffic stops and other interactions with police - credibility he would not otherwise have due to the color of his skin.

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