Attorney reminds employers that what's good for employees is also good for business

 By Sheila Pursglove?

Legal News
 
 
Employment cases are a slice of “real life,” according to Megan Norris, chair of the Employment and Labor Group at Miller Canfield in Detroit, and a University of Michigan Law School graduate. 
 
“Everybody has some knowledge of the workplace environment, so my job is to really understand the facts and tell the story in a persuasive manner,” says the Detroit resident. “While details matter, it’s only because they are part of the narrative. We don’t spend too much time bogged down in fine print or the placement of a comma.”

Norris – a managing director and senior principal at the firm and a nationally recognized expert in her field—enjoys training employers on employment matters, whether sexual harassment, discipline and discharge, or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  
 
“I feel like I can really make a difference helping employers understand why what’s good for their employees – an environment free of discrimination and harassment, an environment that accommodates disabilities, and an environment that makes expectations and the ramifications for failing to meet them clear —is also good business.”

There are plenty of challenging cases, such as one where Norris defended a nonprofit organization that had terminated an employee for violation of policies regarding communications with children who participated in the organization’s programs. 
 
“The judge understood that while the employee had not broken any laws or actually harmed any children at all, the organization had legitimate reasons for setting up safeguards and terminating employees who violated them,” she explains. 
 
Norris represented a law school that had been sued by a professor who did not want to teach the courses assigned to her.  According to Norris, there were numerous legal issues – did this professor have a disability as defined by the ADA?  If so, was giving her whatever course assignment she wanted a reasonable accommodation? Was she entitled to any damages if her termination was confirmed through the tenure process? 
 
“But at its core the case came down to explaining to the faculty —which generally would be predisposed to support another faculty member – that this professor was trying to avoid doing what they had all been doing for years, namely teaching whatever was needed whenever it was needed in order to provide the best education to the students.”
 An author and frequent speaker, Norris also provides pro bono services to several organizations. 
 
“I generally deal with clients who are knowledgeable about the law, sophisticated, and have excellent legal representation. Sitting with my husband at the INS when he was getting his green card, it was painfully obvious that most people are really frightened by the legal system,” she says. “Everybody deserves the same chance.  As a practical matter, they won’t all get it. But every time I serve a less fortunate client, the gratitude for the assistance is overwhelming.”

Norris majored in music and American politics at Wesleyan University, where she specialized in West African drumming. 
 
“West African drumming is taught by playing – there’s no music – and it rewards a good ear and rhythm, which I learned many trained musicians don’t have nearly as much as you would think, so I could distinguish myself,” she says. “And it sounds like one big party, so it’s really fun to play!”  
 
The downside?  
 
“Not a great job market in that field,” she says with a smile. “With my general liberal arts background, love of logic, and the ability to talk a lot, law seemed like a solid profession suited to my skills.” 
 

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