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Dyan Ebert, Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A.
Dyan Ebert, Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A.

The POWER 30: Dyan Ebert

Dyan Ebert represents public and some private entities in employment litigation, but like many lawyers right now, she is spending a lot of time counseling clients through the daily challenges of operating a workplace during a pandemic.

Some organizations have found that remote work is not only possible, but very popular. Others, such as public entities have found they cannot provide adequate customer service remotely, Ebert said.

“The question is, what did we learn [during the pandemic] and what can we do differently?” Ebert said.

“We’re trying to very critically assess what can be done remotely without compromising. That’s true in the public sector as well as private. People are still holding their breath, asking ‘can we go back?’” Ebert said.

Ebert has seen employers “tracking” their employees who are working remotely which adds an extra layer of management challenge, especially if the employees are home with children, she said.

Personnel matters including employee mental health have become a big concern of employers. Employees are stressed by the pandemic and sometimes by working from home.

“There’s an element of trust between employers and employees but when something goes wrong there’s a lot of second-guessing,” Ebert said.

Whistleblowing complaints are a natural outgrowth of the pandemic, Ebert said. “Compliance with directives makes people unhappy.”

Some whistleblowers say employers didn’t take COVID seriously enough. Others think they were treated differently because their views about COVID-19 were different from the employers’.

The issue of privacy also arises in this context. Employees feel that they have a right to know the COVID-19 risk in the workplace, and employers want to be candid but also protect employees’ privacy.

“Someone who thinks they have a right to know something isn’t thinking about the privacy wall very carefully,” Ebert said.

Ebert finished up a term as president of the Minnesota State Bar Association in 2021. She appeared in person at MSBA events twice—once when she got the president’s gavel, and once when she transferred it to Jennifer Thompson. “What I like best is seeing people and I couldn’t do that.”

 

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