Only six years after graduating from the University of Minnesota Law School, Phillip Kitzer is making his mark in the field of employee termination law.
Last year, Kitzer was winning co-counsel in Schmitz v. United States Steel, where the Minnesota Supreme Court recognized a discharged worker’s constitutional right to a jury trial for retaliatory discharge under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
Kitzer also won at the Minnesota Court of Appeals, marking the first time that judicial body recognized a cause of action for threat-to-discharge under the act.
Fellow law firm partner Vildan Teske, who nominated Kitzer for the Minnesota Lawyer honor, says her colleague “combines outstanding legal acumen with excellent people skills which make him highly effective not only in the courtroom but also with clients that are experiencing a very stressful time in their lives.”
Kitzer says he likes helping clients through some of the toughest times in their lives. “I really like to … understand what they are going through in this very difficult time of their lives.” When workers are terminated from a job, “they are embarrassed, humiliated and self-conscious. Our jobs are central to our identities,” he said.
Outside of the courtroom, Kitzer served two years as president of the Minnesota National Employment Labor Association (NELA) chapter during a five-year stint on the organization’s board of directors.
Kitzer worked with Minnesota Association of Justice to successfully lobby state lawmakers to strengthen the Minnesota Whistleblowers’ Statute, clarifying, among other things, the standard for “good faith” in an employment termination. Then in 2014, Kitzer worked again with MAJ to successfully lobby state legislators to amend the Minnesota Human Rights Act so plaintiffs and defendants are guaranteed the right to jury trials.
Currently, Kitzer serves on the diversity committee of the Minnesota chapter of the Federal Bar Association and is a regular contributor to the National FBA Labor and Employment Section Monthly Circuit update.