Susan Fleurant

The Project

Susan (she/her/hers) will advance economic justice for Minnesotans with disabilities by representing workers who receive subminimum wages and advocating for policies to implement the phase-out of the subminimum wage statewide.

Federal law authorizes certified employers to pay a subminimum wage to workers with disabilities. Most people receiving subminimum wages are employed in segregated settings and receive less than $4 an hour. Newly enacted legislation in Minnesota will phase out the subminimum wage for people with disabilities in the state by August 1, 2025. An estimated 10,000 Minnesotans with disabilities receive a subminimum wage; over the next three years, these workers will transition to integrated employment with fair wages.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Susan will represent workers with disabilities in cases concerning wage and hour violations and disability rights. Her work will focus on supporting workers in their transition to employment in integrated community settings with competitive wages. In addition to direct legal services, she will leverage the monitoring authority of the Protection and Advocacy System to ensure that employment providers are sufficiently working to transition workers with disabilities to employment opportunities with fair wages. Susan will also conduct community outreach and serve on a statewide task force to make recommendations to implement the phase-out of the subminimum wage in Minnesota.

My brother has intellectual disabilities and his experience with the disability services system catalyzed my commitment to advancing equity and integration in access to services and opportunities for all people with disabilities.

Susan Fleurant /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Brooke will increase access to high-quality, culturally appropriate and individualized parent representation and improve outcomes for children and families involved in the child protection system in Minnesota.  

Every year, thousands of families enter the child protection system in Minnesota. Minnesota is one of only a handful of states that does not mandate the right to court-appointed counsel in child protection proceedings. Additionally, there is currently no statewide system to appoint qualified attorneys to represent parents. This structure results in some parents receiving minimal legal representation while others receive no legal representation at all. High-quality legal representation is imperative for positive outcomes for families, as parent attorneys play an important role in advocating for their client’s needs and ensuring reunification. Brooke’s project is focused on improving outcomes for families by ensuring that all parents in Minnesota receive high-quality legal representation.  

As a certified student attorney with the Mitchell Hamline Child Protection clinic, Brooke had the opportunity to represent parents, grandparents and children. Through her experiences with the clinic, she saw firsthand the impact the child protection system can have on the families who enter it.  Brooke is passionate about improving the child protection system in Minnesota and ensuring successful outcomes for the families who come in contact with it.  

Fellowship Plans

Brooke will work collaboratively with the Institute to Transform Child Protection to increase education and training for parent attorneys practicing in Minnesota, and reform the child protection system in the state through strategic appeals and policy advocacy. Brooke will develop tools and resources for current and future parent attorneys that incorporate best practices. She will also reform the system in Minnesota by bringing strategic appeals that protect parents’ rights and help develop an improved body of caselaw. Finally, Brooke will effectuate change through policy reform.   

Media

Alum’s clinic work at Mitchell Hamline paved the way for a Minnesota Supreme Court appearance

The Inspiration

The Project

Marlee provides legal advocacy and outreach services to American Indian mothers who struggle with opiate addiction and who are involved with the child protection system.

American Indian children have higher rates of disparity and disproportionality than any other race. Indian parents failing to comply with court-ordered case plans through the county lose their children an average of twice a week in Minnesota. American Indians in Minnesota die of opiate related overdoses at rates of up to five times higher than any other race.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past year, Marlee has:

  • Provided direct representation and supportive services to 15 clients
  • Ensured clients were equipped with needed support and culturally appropriate services
  • Joined the Urban Indian Opiate Response Committee to address the opioid epidemic and raised awareness for Traditional Healing Ceremonies in Twin Cities
  • Presented at the Minnesota Indigenous Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition Annual Conference and Stand Against Child Abuse Conference
  • Created and participated in a parent-child protection education training for American Indian families
  • Developed and soft launched the first pro bono legal clinic for American Indian families to address housing issues

Next Steps

In the next six months, Marlee plans to:

  • Collaborate with US Bank and Dorsey & Whitney LLP to launch an ongoing pro bono legal clinic for American Indian families
  • Create a directory of culturally-appropriate resources that are currently available to urban American Indian families
  • Educate other agencies and service providers about the gaps and barriers clients face in accessing resources
  • Implement a support group for American Indian mothers who struggle with opiate addiction

Media

Advocating for American Indian Mothers in Minnesota: The Equal Justice Works Fellowship