Early on Cassie Navarro knew she wanted to dedicate her career to fighting for the rights of others. While completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, Navarro took several constitutional law classes that focused on First Amendment rights. “I learned how fundamental our rights are to a functioning democracy and realized what a critical role lawyers play in protecting and advancing those rights. I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to advocate for people, help protect their individual rights and make life better for them.”
During her second year at William Mitchell College of Law, Navarro was introduced to employment law through a client counseling competition. Soon aft er, she began clerking at Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP, a firm focused on employee rights, and knew immediately that these were the types of clients she wanted to help. Graduating summa cum laude from William Mitchell, Navarro joined the firm and immediately set to work advocating for employees on both an individual and class action basis.
“Coming out of law school, I had a drive to do real work and dive right in. From an early stage, I began working directly with clients and handling all aspects of litigation, including making strategic decisions, leading negotiations and arguing dis-positive motions in court.”
The variety and scope of the cases she handles fuel her enduring commitment to her practice.
“One area I’m passionate about relates to our state’s drug and alcohol testing laws. I handle many of these cases for our firm. The strong procedural requirements imposed on employers by the legislature make clear its intent to protect privacy. Minnesota law requires that employers offer employees who fail testing the chance to go to counseling or rehab before terminating them. Through the experiences of some of my clients, I’ve learned that the opportunity to continue working is critical to overcoming addiction, and I feel strongly about protecting that privilege.”
Another compelling issue has emerged in her practice, one that has become even more significant to her over time. “I’ve seen many cases involving pregnancy discrimination or retaliation against mothers who request maternity leave. This is surprising to me given current discussions around our country’s maternity and paternity leave laws. As a professional woman, this particular area of law has become a special passion for me, especially considering that the rights we offer families in this country is minimal when compared to other developed countries.”
As an expectant mother, Navarro offered a personal perspective on the issue. “I think it’s normal for people to feel nervous when they tell their employer about a pregnancy, even if they fully trust their employer. When I did that here, I felt fortunate that the reaction from my colleagues was overwhelmingly positive. It’s comforting to know I can enjoy time with my family and people will assist with my work until I return. Not all new parents who are professionals have that experience.”
Navarro is one of the many next generation attorneys who are making big contributions to society by doing crucial legal work.
“Many of our clients have gone through terrible experiences of discrimination, unlawful harassment and retaliation. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to validate someone and tell them, ‘You’ve been wronged, and this is how we’re going to fight for you.’”