Joni Thome

Employment Law Specialist

jthome@baillonthome.com (612) 252-3570

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Joni M. Thome has nearly twenty-five years of experience and is widely known for her trial and appellate work on behalf of employees who have been wrongfully terminated from their jobs due to discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation. A founding partner of Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta, she has obtained millions of dollars for her clients in awards and settlements, including many multiple-party, collective action, and class action employment lawsuits.

Joni is a certified Employment Law Specialist and has been named a Super Lawyer by her peers regularly since 2003.  She’s been recognized as one of Minnesota’s Top 50 Women Lawyers every year since 2012 and as one of Minnesota’s Top 100 Super Lawyers since 2014. Joni was also the recipient of the 2012 Karla Wahl Dedicated Advocacy Award by the Minnesota Chapter of the National Employment Lawyer Association. The award honors one Minnesota attorney each year for his or her “ceaseless and courageous efforts to better the rights of Minnesota employees.”

Publications and Presentations

  • Top 10 Employment Claims Plaintiffs Lawyers Overlook, Employment Law Institute, Panelist with Chris Jozwiak, May 24, 2016
  • Reflection on the 20th Anniversary of the 1995 HCBA Report, William Mitchell College of Law, Law Review, Volume 41, Issue 1: LGBTQ Issues, 2015
  • Upper Midwest Employment Law Institute, Annual Presenter on Disability Discrimination, Caregiver Discrimination, FMLA Violations
  • Minneapolis Fire Department, The Kris Lemon Story, Insider Exclusive, Attorney Interview, 2013
  • Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity, University of St. Thomas, Panelist, 2010
  • Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case That Made History, Documentary, Attorney Interview, 2010
  • Ethics and Bias Seminar, Minnesota Institute for Legal Education, Presenter, 2001
  • Lavender Law Conference, National Lesbian and Gay Law Association, Speaker, 1993, 2001-2004
  • American Association of Law Libraries, Annual Conference, Speaker, 2001
  • Reconciling Nondiscrimination with the Affirmation of Cultural Diversity, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Volume 13, Number 2, Fall 1997

Representative Cases

  • Ritter v. Auntie Ruth's Furry Friends, No. A14-1044 (Minn. Ct. App. Feb. 9, 2015) (reversing dismissal of MHRA age discrimination case wherein just 45 days after new owners of the business took control, plaintiff’s manager made derogatory comments about plaintiff’s age, including complaining to plaintiff that “you cost a lot” (referencing her insurance premiums) and “we can’t afford to keep you,” criticizing plaintiff’s clothing as being “from the 70s,” and being told by the manager repeatedly that plaintiff was not close enough in age to the rest of the staff to relate to them and that there were “generational things” or “generation gaps” between plaintiff and the younger employees)

  • Adamson v. Mattamy Homes, No. 27-CV-13-2612 (Dist. Ct. Minn. Oct. 17, 2013) (denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim for age discrimination under the MHRA because genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether defendant’s reasons for termination were pretext where two younger employees replaced plaintiff after she was terminated)

  • Harnan v. Univ. of St. Thomas, 776 F.Supp. 2d 938 (D. Minn. 2011) (denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s FMLA interference claim where genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether plaintiff suffered from a serious health condition and whether plaintiff was entitled to the benefits of the FMLA; and denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment for plaintiff’s FMLA retaliation claim where genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether defendant’s proffered reason for termination was pretext for plaintiff’s termination)

  • Schwarzkopf v. Brunswick Corp., 833 F.Supp. 2d 1106 (D. Minn. 2011) (partial denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment where genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether former employee was subjected to a hostile work environment when his co-workers repeatedly made derogatory comments about his perceived disability over a period of more than a year)

  • Brezina et al. v. Chart (D. Minn. 2010) (order denying summary judgment for multiple employees where genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether these employees entered into valid settlement agreements with their former employer because they did not sign the agreements knowingly and voluntarily)

  • Truehl v. Roundy’s Supermarket, Inc., No. 27-CV-09-18698 (Dist. Ct. Minn. Apr. 23, 2010) (denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim of reprisal in violation of the MHRA because several genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether plaintiff engaged in protected conduct when she requested schedule changes accompanied by notes from her doctor regarding her disability)

  • Bahr v. Capella Univ., 788 N.W.2d 76 (Minn. 2010) (establishing that employee need not prove underlying merits of a discrimination/hostile environment to prove retaliation claim under the MHRA; the employee need only demonstrate that she had a good faith reasonable belief that conduct she opposed was a violation of the MHRA)

  • Bahr v. Capella Univ., 765 N.W.2d 428 (Minn. Ct. App. 2009) cert. granted (June 18, 2009) (setting standard for statutorily protected conduct in retaliation cases under the MHRA)

  • Lemon v. City of Minneapolis, No. 27-CV-08-11976 (Dist. Ct. Minn. Dec. 1, 2009) (following a bench trial, the district court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff on her claims of reprisal in violation of the MHRA and reprisal under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act, finding that defendant’s insults, demotion, and attempt to fire plaintiff demonstrated a “campaign of retaliatory actions” toward her based on her complaints about her work environment)

  • Hollenkamp v. Jennie-O, No. 07-CV-04725 (D. Minn. June 1, 2009) (denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim of disability discrimination because genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether defendant’s reasons for firing plaintiff were pretextual where defendant fired plaintiff, a longtime employee, shortly after plaintiff became disabled)

  • Kaufenberg v. Schwan’s Home Serv., Inc., No. A08-0114, 2009 WL 234014 (Minn. Ct. App. Feb. 3, 2009) (genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether employee’s termination for the alleged falsification of medical records was pretext where employee presented legitimate explanation for the omissions on her medical report, employer had a policy of not terminating employees for mistakes and termination followed worker’s compensation claim)

  • Frieler v. Carlson Mktg. Grp., Inc., 751 N.W.2d 558 (Minn. 2008) (setting precedent that a plaintiff alleging sexual harassment by a supervisor in violation of the MHRA is not required to prove employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take timely and appropriate action; and setting precedent that employer is subject to vicarious liability for an actionable hostile environment created by supervisor with immediate or successively higher authority over victimized employee)

  • Schaich v. Int’l Seals, Inc., No. 27-CV-06-16894 (Dist. Ct. Minn. Sept. 12, 2007) (denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim of retaliation under the Minnesota Whistleblower Act because a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether defendant’s reason for terminating plaintiff was pretextual where the facts indicated defendant terminated plaintiff shortly after he refused to unload boxes containing dead animals because he thought it was unsafe and voiced his opposition to defendant; subsequently, judgment entered for plaintiff following jury trial and award of damages)

  • Schutz v. Minneapolis Sch. Dist. Special Sch. Dist. No. 1, No. 27-CV-06-474 (Dist. Ct. Minn. Jan. 24, 2007) (following trial, judgment entered in favor of plaintiff on her claim of reprisal in violation of the MHRA, awarding damages in the amount of $149,000 plus damages for emotional distress in the amount of $50,000, attorney’s fees and costs)

  • Henry v. Indigenous People’s Task Force, No. A06-160, 2006 WL 3719658 (Minn. Ct. App. Dec. 19, 2006) (holding district court erred in granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment, because the evidence raised a genuine issue of material fact as to the credibility of defendant’s articulated reason for termination and supported an inference that defendant terminated plaintiff and then sought justification ex post facto)

  • Baker v. Am. Furniture Liquidators, No. 27-CV-06-4642 (Dist. Ct. Minn. Nov. 13, 2006) (denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim of sexual harassment hostile work environment in violation of the MHRA, finding defendant could not assert affirmative defense and that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether defendant’s conduct was sufficiently severe and pervasive to create a hostile work environment)

  • Roslyn v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., No. 05-0441 2005 WL 1529937 (D. Minn. June 29, 2005) (denial of defendant’s motion to dismiss where plaintiff sufficiently alleged that defendant discriminated against him in violation of USERRA by denying him benefits because of his military reserve status)

  • Brenden v. Westonka Public Schs., No. EM 03-017571 (Dist. Ct. Minn. 2004) (denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claims of age discrimination and workers’ compensation retaliation where genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether plaintiff’s position was eliminated as part of a reduction-in-force, and whether the facts surrounding the elimination of the plaintiff’s position, creation of a similar position, and the decision not to hire plaintiff for the newly created position, despite his prior good work evaluations, was a pretext for illegal motives; subsequently, judgment entered for plaintiff following jury trial and award of damages)

  • Sonkowsky ex rel. Sonkowsky v. Board of Educ. for Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 721, 327 F.3d 675 (8th Cir. 2003) (asserting school violated elementary student’s first and fourteenth amendment rights and discriminated against him because of a disability in violation of the MHRA when he was required to color a picture of a football player in Minnesota Vikings’ colors, was prohibited from wearing a Green Bay Packers’ jersey in class photo and was denied participating in school field trip to the Vikings’ practice facility at Winter Park)

  • Goins v. West Grp., 635 N.W.2d 717 (Minn. 2001) (establishing transgender former employee was member of class protected under the MHRA)

  • EEOC v. Fed. Express Corp., 165 F.Supp. 2d 956 (D. Minn. 2001) (setting precedent for the recognition of AIDS as a qualifying disability under the ADA; denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment where genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether defendant-employer met its obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to former employee diagnosed with AIDS)

  • EEOC et al. v. Long Prairie Packing (1998) (represented several individual clients as well as working with the EEOC for class members who were victims of same-sex and opposite sex sexual harassment; the matters resulted in settlements totaling over $2 million that were distributed to employees of the company, some of whom had been subjected to years of working in a sexually hostile work environment)

  • Davis v. Hennepin Cty., 559 N.W.2d 117 (Minn. Ct. App. 1997) (establishing precedent that statutory immunity is not available as a defense to MHRA claims and reversing summary judgment in favor of plaintiff on her discrimination claim because a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding whether employee’s managers acted willfully or maliciously in responding to plaintiff’s complaint)

Honors and Awards

  • Top 50 Minnesota Women Super Lawyers, 2012-2016
  • Top 100 Minnesota Women Super Lawyers, 2007-2009
  • Top 100 Minnesota Super Lawyers, 2014-2016
  • Karla Wahl Award Recipient, National Employment Lawyer Association, Minnesota Chapter, 2012
  • Minnesota Lavender Bar Association, Community Service Award, 1999
  • MSBA Certified Employment Law Specialist

Professional Memberships

  • Minnesota Lavender Bar Association, Founder, Past Chair and Board Member Emeritus
  • National Gay and Lesbian Law Association, Past Chair and Board Member
  • Minnesota State Bar Association, Labor and Employment Law Section
  • Federal Bar Association, Minnesota Chapter
  • Hennepin County Bar Association
  • Cancer Legal Line, Attorney Referral Program Volunteer
  • Minnesota AIDS Project, Volunteer Attorney Program
  • OutFront Minnesota, Attorney Referral Program Volunteer

Education

  • Hamline University School of Law, St. Paul, MN, J.D.; Journal of Law and Policy, Associate
  • University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, B.A.

Admissions

  • Minnesota Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota