'Enemy Within'-Labor law litigator inspired by RFK book

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 By Sheila Pursglove 

Legal News
 
In a sexual harassment case that calls to mind the saying, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” a woman catapulted from a minimum wage job to finance manager after starting a relationship with her boss, claimed her boss terminated her after she ended the romance.
 
“We were successful in having the Title VII claims and one of the Michigan Elliott Larsen Civil Rights claim dismissed, but it was very challenging to demonstrate to the finder of fact that the termination was proper as it relates to those claims,” says Greg Meihn, a partner at Foley & Mansfield in Detroit where he focuses his transactional and litigation practice in the core areas of employment and school law.
 
In another memorable case, an employee terminated for failing to show up for required training and a monthly meeting claimed it was scheduled on his religious accommodation day.
 
“Company policy was if you could not attend, you simply call and reschedule—he did neither,” Meihn says. “We also discovered that in a prior divorce file, he had a visitation schedule with his minor child that mirrored his alleged religious accommodation days.” 
 
This case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Writ was denied. The U.S. District Court dismissed the complaint; and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the denial. 
 
“This case was interesting and instructional in determining what a company must do to accommodate a religious request, and how far employees will use what appears to be a valid reason to be off work to cover or mask improper reasons for missing work,” Meihn says.
 
Meihn provides labor and employment counseling and litigation services to public and private employers, schools, cities, townships, and municipalities, and represents clients before federal and state courts, the American Arbitration Association, FINRA, Michigan Employment Security Commission, National Labor Relations Board, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Michigan Department of Civil Rights, and Michigan Employment Relations Commission.
 
Employment law is a good specialty for law students and newly minted attorneys, he notes.
 
“This is an evolving field. For a plaintiff’s attorney, it’s a field with significant promise as the statutes governing discrimination law provide for attorney fees.”
 
His own interest in a law career dawned after reading “The Enemy Within” by Robert F. Kennedy. 
 
“I was impressed that someone so young could have so much passion for protecting the middle and lower class workers,” he says. “I knew then that I wanted to be a lawyer and hopefully make a difference.”
 
Armed with a BBA in business and environmental science, with honors, from Eastern Michigan, and pre-law classes from Cornell University, Meihn earned his J.D., cum laude, from the University of Toledo College of Law, with a focus on employment and environmental law; and clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Nicolas Walinski, Eastern District of Ohio, Northern Division. Employment Law was a natural selection. 
 
“The intellectual tension between federal and state statutes, federal and state judges, and the many different players such as the EEOC, DOL, and NLRB, was compelling,” he says.
 
School law was an ideal offshoot, with a tremendous carry-over of the law, processes, and procedures. 
 
“Just as employment law allows me to draw on my ‘Robert Kennedy’ desire to do something of value, school law provides me with the knowledge that my work is helping to promote the education of the youth of the State of Michigan,” he explains.
 
In his construction law practice, Meihn represents insurance companies, residential and commercial construction companies, rock crushing operators, and construction supply companies with regard to public jobs, bonded jobs, federal and state compliance issues, mold defense, construction defect, defective products, third party claims, Michigan Builders Trust Fund Act claims, and related matters.
 
“Construction law allows me to exercise the hidden ‘scientist’ in me, and allows me the opportunity to play engineer, scientist, and lawyer at the same time,” he says.
 
Accorded the status of “Master Litigator” by the American Inns of Court, Meihn has litigated through trial and/or arbitration in excess of 66 matters (bench and jury) relating to employment and labor and construction defect claims.
 
Meihn is a past-member of the State Bar of Michigan Professional Ethics Committee.  Additionally, he frequently contributes articles to Michigan Lawyers Weekly, Corp Magazine, and other publications, and has appeared on ABC World News, ABC 12 News, and WWJ to discuss employment and labor issues.
 
In 2009, he was recognized by Lawyers Weekly as its 21st Century Innovator of the Year for co-creating Foley & Mansfield’s Employment Connection Program, now operative in 38 states.
 
“The program was created as a direct result of numerous HR professionals for small to medium size companies complaining they did not understand wage and hour and discrimination law, could not get prompt responses from their general counsels, and when they did get a response, the bill was $1,000 or more,” Meihn explains. “They needed a resource they could draw on when the decisions had to be made quickly.” 
 
Recognizing that an attorney’s billing rate—averaging $300 per hour—was a major impediment to these companies, Meihn created the program to provide prompt answers to questions on employment and health care issues at an affordable cost. 
 
“The major benefit was and is that the employer could call as many times per day and per month and pay the same fee,” he says.
 
A native of Lincoln Park and a child of a military family with service in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Gulf War I and II, the Meihn family presently makes their home in Beverly Hills.  Meihn has two daughters Sophia, 8, and Genevive, 4. His leisure pursuits include camping, hiking, mountain climbing, fishing, and skiing, with Alaska and Montana as favorite destinations; and is an avid sharp shooter competing in rifle shooting competitions when his busy schedule permits.
 
Meihn also provides pro bono work as part of the Federal Bar Association program. 
 
“Pro bono work is what drives me the most and provides the greatest impact on my life—providing assistance to those who cannot afford a lawyer or who are in need of help to acquire benefits, programs, and assistance is my way of giving back,” he says. “Judge Stecco, a Genesee County judge who started a Veteran Court program in Genesee County, once told me the greatest gift a lawyer can provide is to help another person in need. That is what drives me forward.”
 
In Meihn’s view, people sweat the details of life way too much; and he recalls Army psychiatrist Sidney Freedman’s advice on the TV show M.A.S.H.
 
“He told Hawkeye Pierce and his team, when life becomes a bit much, you should ‘pull down your pants and slide on the ice’—a bit crude, but makes the point there’s much to learn during good times and bad times and by embracing both, you live.”

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