Dream Team Together Again: Attorneys Lawrence P. Schaefer and Jean Boler
Schaefer Halleen attorneys Jean Boler and Lawrence P. Schaefer were instrumental in the precedent-setting Eveleth Mining Case which became the inspiration for the movie North Country starring Charlize Theron.
Schaefer Halleen attorney Jean Boler first gained notoriety as part of the legal team that prosecuted and won the first ever sexual harassment certified class action lawsuit: Jenson v. Eveleth Mines. If Jenson v. Eveleth Mines doesn’t quite ring a bell, then the movie North Country might. Along with noted employment lawyer Lawrence P. Schaefer, Jean worked on the legal team that settled the landmark Jenson v. Eveleth Mines case in 1999, upon which the award winning movie North Country was based. Jenson v. Eveleth Mines was the first class-action certified sexual harassment lawsuit in the nation; it set the tone for workplace reforms and brought light to a subject that had previously been neglected. The case produced over 22,000 hours of work and more than a dozen trials-but most importantly, gave women and men in the workplace the empowerment to report workplace misconduct.
Empowerment is a consistent theme in Boler’s prolific career. In Seattle, she stood out for her ability to turn conflict into an avenue for improvement, and build a foundation of practice on equality and fairness. June 8, 2015, was proclaimed “Jean Boler day” by the Mayor and Seattle City Council in honor of Boler’s service to the City of Seattle. She was recognized for, among other things, eliminating gender pay disparities in the Law Department and guiding the City through implementation of the DOJ Settlement Agreement regarding police use of force and accountability.
The Client: SVP at advertising subsidiary of Fortune 100 Company
Problem: President of subsidiary (to whom client reported directly) hadovertly pursued client sexually for months, and when she rebuffed these advances, arranged for client’s position to be eliminated and her to be converted to contractor status. After a year, President had secured approval to terminate contracting relationship.
Our Approach: Alert executive leadership to sexually harassing conduct and adverse consequences immediately, and file and appropriate agency charge alleging quid pro quo harassment. Invited mediation and made proposal for same.
The Solution: Negotiated settlement in mediation providing client with over eighteen months of compensation, binding non-disparagement, and full payment of all fees and costs incurred.
According to Schaefer Halleen President and Owner, Lawrence P. Schaefer, “It’s great to have our Eveleth Mines team back together. Jean is in a class of her own as an advocate. We are delighted our clients will be able to experience Jean’s deep commitment to and expertise in advocating for employees dealing with problems in the workplace.”
Even so, the issues of fairness and equality addressed in Jenson v. Eveleth Mines stayed with Boler. When the opportunity to move to Minnesota and join the Schaefer Halleen team opened up, Boler gladly accepted. Said Boler: “I’m looking forward to working with Larry Schaefer again. He has a great passion for his client’s interests and loves trying cases—a rare combination.”
In Minnesota, Boler will be focusing entirely on sexual harassment and discrimination cases. Her addition to Schaefer Halleen represents the unification of the Jenson v. Eveleth Mines legal dream team. Boler is returning on a mission to change the landscape of workplace sexual harassment in Minnesota. Boler added, “As we saw in the Eveleth Mines ten year saga, the courts are a very inefficient way to achieve justice for victims of discrimination and often result in painful experiences that rival what brought the litigant to seek justice in the courts to begin with. “I’m looking forward to focusing on advancing employee rights again, and particularly women’s rights in the workplace,” she concluded.
Current Status of Workplace Sexual Harassment
In the 20 years since Jenson v. Eveleth Mines, much has changed in the area of women’s rights. Boler states:
“While women have made great strides in higher education in the last twenty years, surpassing men in undergraduate and advanced degrees, their political and workplace power remains second tier. Subtle discrimination and stereotyping have replaced overt barriers, but they are just as real.”
Reports from the Chicago Tribune state that less than 1/3 of sexual harassment cases go to trial, due in part to individuals settling out of court or not feeling their cases have a chance to win. Furthermore, a recent Huffington post article found that 70% of women did not report workplace sexual harassment, and of the 29% that did report, only 15% felt it was handled fairly. These numbers don’t even begin to address the unreported issue of men being sexually harassed in the workplace. Boler states:
“Failure to report harassment forecloses a legal remedy, leaving the majority of harassment unaddressed.”
The need for fair legal representation and ability to voice concerns is huge- especially in a more diversified workplace. Boundaries between and work and personal life are blurred by digital and social media, creating more challenges for employees in navigating appropriate behavior and identifying violations of workplace policies.
Why Minnesota Should Care
In 2013 Minnesota took a seminal step towards equality when Governor Mark Dayton signed the marriage equality bill into law. With this as a foundation, Minnesota has been a hot spot for issues of equality and fairness. In the few short years since 2013, Minnesotans have become more vocal on social issues, have stood up to call for equality, and have taken the lead on being known as a state that cares about fairness in workplace, home and community.