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Matthew Frank, Nichols Kaster PLLP
Matthew Frank, Nichols Kaster PLLP

The POWER 30: Matthew Frank

“Employment cases are civil rights cases.” They involve discrimination, retaliation and harassment in the workplace. That’s the view of Minneapolis attorney Matthew Alan Frank at Nichols Kaster. “Every client matters. And what matters most to one client is not necessarily what matters most to the next,” said Frank.

Frank has a number of prominent cases under his belt. One is Conlon v. Surly Brewing Co., a case under the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act, where Plaintiffs won summary judgment and procured a $2.5 million settlement on behalf of a class of direct-service workers who had been forced to share their tips. Another is Friedlander v. Edwards Lifesciences, a case under the Minnesota Whistleblower Act in the Minnesota Supreme Court, which significantly broadened protections for whistleblowers in Minnesota.

A third, as reported in the Star Tribune, is a case settled pre-suit for $300,000 on behalf of former Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty. Among the reasons that Moriarty’s case is important, explained Frank, is that it highlighted potential relief under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) for employees who support Black Lives Matter.

The MHRA makes it an unfair discriminatory practice to discriminate against any person in the access to, admission to, full utilization of or benefit from any public service. Frank believes this provision, among others, could offer protection for people opposing race discrimination in law enforcement. “You can’t retaliate [against an employee] for opposing conduct that is forbidden by the MHRA,” he said.

Moriarty is running for Hennepin County attorney.

Frank is currently working on other cutting-edge cases. In one, Frank, David Schlesinger and Gender Justice represent the plaintiff in JayCee Cooper v. USA Powerlifting et al. They allege their client has been barred from competing in powerlifting competitions because she is a transgender woman. The case is brought under the MHRA, venued in Ramsey County, and now approaching summary judgment.

In another case, Frank and Schlesinger are representing the plaintiff in Mary Kay Thomas v. Marshall Public Schools et al. They allege their client has been targeted for retaliation and removed from her position as Middle School Principal because of her support for LGBTQ students. The case is brought under the MHRA, venued in federal district court, and in the early stages. Frank believes that both cases will establish broad protections under the MHRA for LGBTQ Minnesotans and their allies.