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Jenny Gassman-Pines, Greene Espel, PLLP
Jenny Gassman-Pines, Greene Espel, PLLP

The POWER 30: Jenny Gassman-Pines

Representing employers is a way to create a law practice that is balanced between the human element of the profession and being a self-described “law nerd,” according to Minneapolis lawyer Jenny Gassman-Pines, of Greene Espel.

Her employment practice encompasses helping employers create happy and productive workplaces, and traditional litigation defense work.

Counseling on the workplace involves more than regulatory compliance but also includes diversity, equity and inclusion, said Gassman-Pines. She is a founder of the firm’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion group, which provides assessments, strategic planning, customized trainings and ongoing consulting services.

If necessary, the group partners with other firm members for investigations and litigation prevention. Its training efforts are intended for employees, management, and the legal profession as a whole.

“I’m hopeful we’re building empathy,” Gassman-Pines said. It’s part of the job, just as is advocacy, she said. “I really do think employers are trying to do the right thing.” Also, employers are very invested in learning what practical things they can do for employee relations, Gassman-Pines said. “Employers are yearning for concrete skills.”

The DEI practice has been a way to help clients reach their goals for the workplace through strategic planning, consulting and training. “We want to be a partner in all the aspects for business,” Gassman-Pines said.

Two big issues right now are restrictive covenants and COVID-19 policies, including vaccinations, exemptions from vaccinations and accommodations.

The issue of exemption from vaccination requirements based on religious beliefs is a more recent one, said Gassman-Pines. It’s not that employers question the sincerity of religious beliefs, she said, it’s just that the boundaries of such a request have to be determined.

There are also ongoing challenges during COVID-19 for employees who have family caretaking responsibilities and employees who want to work remotely. Remote work has succeeded in the legal profession, but there are always some things that need to be done in person, Gassman-Pines said. It also is important to develop a workplace culture and relationships.

Employers are working to enforce restrictive covenants, but courts are less likely to grant injunctions. The pace of litigation also affects injunctive relief, as in the case where the judge entered a temporary injunction and waited 90 days to deny a permanent injunction, Gassman-Pines said. A bill in the Legislature would restrict the use of covenants in some situations, she noted.