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 Megan Bonanni

On the Job

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News
 
Civil rights attorney Megan Bonanni has a new “hero” in her life — a developmentally disabled client, a long-term employee in a blue-collar job who was brutally harassed by supervisors because of his disability. 

“My client’s bravery and resolve in the face of tremendous workplace abuse was very inspiring — he withstood repeated acts of cruelty because of his disability — he’s a real hero,” says Bonanni, a partner at Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers in Royal Oak who recently settled this case. “My client’s co-workers were courageous enough to put their own jobs at risk by providing incredibly moving testimony in deposition after deposition — chronicling the depth of the harassment that my client endured. It’s often hard to get corroboration in discrimination cases.”

An advocate for the rights of employees, Bonanni’s extensive employment law experience includes discrimination, harassment and unpaid wage claims under both federal and state law. She is passionate about making a difference and correcting wrongs, digging very deeply and immersing herself in her cases.

“I’m focused on putting my hands on every piece of evidence that can help my clients who have been subjected to harassment and discrimination on the job secure justice,” she says. “In employment and civil rights law we represent employees in a variety of contexts. This area of the law is a perfect fit for me because while job loss is such a traumatic experience for my clients, I take their loss personally and make it a mission to do what I can to help them. In litigation, there is a power to having genuine empathy for your client’s experiences. This empathy drives me to achieve the highest results for my clients.” 

The impact of job loss cannot be understated, she notes. “Each person’s identity is made up of a number of moving parts, work, family, spiritual. When one part of a person’s life is out of balance, everything suffers. As an attorney, I enjoy helping my clients put the pieces back together.” 

Bonanni, who often serves on panels as a court-appointed mediator of employment disputes, explains that while settlement may provide a sense of closure, justice is imperfect and the parties often walk away a little bruised from having to compromise.  

“Taking a role the mediation process by helping parties understand how the law applies to their life circumstances and determining the place where each party can move on is an achievement,” she says. “I love connecting with each party to a dispute, cutting to the heart of the issue in controversy and identifying the sweet spot which will likely result in a settlement. There’s a creative piece to that part of lawyering because you have to rely on understanding the human condition and reading people. I find that part of my job exciting.”

Her work has earned her recognition in Best Lawyers in America, as a “Top Lawyer” by The American Lawyer, and in “Who’s Who in North America.” But Bonanni didn’t set out with a legal career in mind. 
“My dad thought I should go into law, but I rejected the idea,” she says. “I was thinking of a career in international government service.”

She did a 180 in her thinking after earning her undergrad degree in political science and French literature, with honors, from Kalamazoo College, spending 8 months in France at the University of Caen as part of her studies. After graduating she moved to France for several more years and taught English in Strasbourg. There she befriended attorneys carrying out humanitarian work. 

“I came to accept that the law was a great way to directly help people,” she says. “I have this desire to be of service, to be contributing. Meeting these attorneys specializing in human rights law convinced me I should try the law.”

Returning stateside, she earned her juris doctor from Wayne Law. During her law school studies, she was awarded a fellowship to study at the University of Warwick in England.

She looks back fondly at her time in England and France. 

“Traveling extensively throughout Europe before having any real responsibilities is a fleeting opportunity and the experience was truly  mind-blowing, changing my perspective on the world permanently,” she says. 
A volunteer attorney and speaker with the Epilepsy Foundation and American Cancer Society, and a mentor with the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, Bonanni also helped to co-sponsor and build a home in

Veracruz, Mexico as part of the Jimmy Carter work project through Habitat for Humanity. She was a key member of a small group of women that sold art to raise the required $10,000 to sponsor a habitat home. 

“We called our house, ‘The House That Art Built,’” says Bonanni, who sold a painting she made as part of the fund-raising effort. “Jimmy Carter is a humanitarian and a genuine hero.  As it turns out, he and Rosalyn
were working on the house next door — I was thrilled to meet him.”

A native of Grosse Pointe, Bonanni and her husband Camille, a commercial film editor, got married on a beach in Mexico but make their home in Royal Oak, where she enjoys Vinyasa yoga, gardening and most of all playing with her children, Eli, 6, and Liv, 4.