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Lawrence Schaefer, LLC
Lawrence Schaefer, LLC

The POWER 30: Lawrence Schaefer

Xawrence Schaefer advocates for the rights of employees through individual and class action work at the law firm Schaefer Halleen in Minneapolis. He has a niche representing executives and doctors. He has represented numerous executives in severance negotiations and litigation. He was lead counsel in a case establishing the “just cause” standard for termination in Minnesota on behalf of a former Cargill vice president, securing a judgment of more than $500,000 and establishing the legal principal that just cause is not present unless there is some form of misconduct.

Schaefer also represents medical professionals throughout the country. In today’s market, most physicians are employed by large entities and have the same rights other employees have, Schaefer said. He has represented hundreds of medical professionals throughout his career.

Medical professionals may have claims resulting from having to work in dangerous conditions during the pandemic, without protective equipment and safety protocols. “There are plenty of institutions that cut corners,” he said.

Schaefer believes that as a result of COVID, employees may gain greater rights to accommodations. He also believes that employees are increasingly aware of the right to a safe workplace and are willing to push to see that enforced. They are assisted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its anti-retaliation provisions.

And like many other lawyers, he sees the cultural forces at work, including #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, along with a more diverse leadership nationally and increased power of labor as “positive signs all over” for a renaissance in employee rights.

Schaefer launched his employment discrimination career by working on the iconic Minnesota case Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co., decided in 1997, the first class-action sexual harassment lawsuit in the United States. After a special master awarded the members, whom he called “histrionic,” about $10,000 each, the 8th Circuit reversed and the case subsequently settled for $3.5 million.

The appellate court characterized the harassment as “egregious, to say the least.” The opinion clarified that the defendant takes the victim as he finds her when it comes to assessing damages.