Mary M. O'Brien

Of Counsel
Tel 612.371.2401
Fax 612.371.3207

Mary O'Brien provides clients with strategic counsel and advice as they navigate through an ever-changing, always complex business environment. Her practical approach to business issues is an outgrowth of her upbringing in a family of business owners. Mary learned early that employees are a company's greatest asset and that perspective shapes the advice she gives her clients each day.

Whether she is handling a contract issue, a discrimination complaint, a trade secret concern or a shareholder/employee dispute, Mary helps clients develop a strategy for an efficient, effective solution. Proactive employment practices help businesses avoid costly and time-consuming legal issues. Writing straightforward policies, clear contracts, and providing training to employees and management are a few of the steps Mary's clients take to minimize risk.

Representative Matters

Mary and her clients have successfully managed challenging and potentially volatile workplace situations. When necessary, Mary works with clients to aggressively deal with situations that required court intervention. Mary works with clients throughout the upper Midwest and has represented them in litigation in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas, California, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.

In situations where employees brought lawsuits that could not be reasonably resolved, she and her clients have secured court dismissals and favorable jury verdicts:

  • Court dismissal of discrimination and retaliation claims brought by a student intern against a hospital and health care organization
  • Court dismissal of claims of discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, disability, and retaliation asserted against a construction company
  • Court dismissal of disability discrimination, retaliation and whistleblower claims brought against employer who questioned confusing return-to-work notes and would not allow the employee to return to work until additional information was provided
  • Obtained court enforcement of a three-year non-compete for a company with sales employees located throughout the country
  • Voluntary withdrawal and dismissal of claims seeking class certification in case alleging violation of laws relating to overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, and workers compensation
  • Defense verdict from jury in favor of automobile dealership on sexual harassment and retaliation claims
  • Defense verdict from jury in favor of HVAC contractor on claim of discrimination and association with foreign spouse
  • Defense verdict from court on age discrimination claim brought by employee terminated after 39 years of employment
  • Court dismissal of claims of age discrimination brought by three employees following layoff

Recognition & Accomplishments

The Minnesota 500: The Most Powerful Business Leaders in Minnesota, 2020

The Best Lawyers in America, employment law - management, labor and employment litigation, 2018-2021; employment law - individuals, 2021

Minnesota Super Lawyers, 2011-2018

Minnesota Super Lawyers - Women's Edition, 2019


Co-author, "DOL, DHS Issue New Rules for H-1B Process and Prevailing Wage Computation," Ballard Spahr alert, October 9, 2020

Co-author, "UPDATED: The 1-2-3s of Counting Employees in Private Equity Firms Under Federal COVID-19 Legislation," Ballard Spahr alert, April 30, 2020

Co-author, "Minnesota Gov. Walz Again Expands Unemployment Benefits to Unemployed Workers," Ballard Spahr alert, April 9, 2020

Co-author, "Minnesota Employers Take Heed – New Wage Statute Takes Effect Today," Ballard Spahr alert, July 1, 2019

Co-author, "EEOC Sets September 30 Deadline for 2018 EEO-1 Pay Data Submission," Ballard Spahr alert, April 5, 2019

Speaking Engagements

Presenter, "On to 2021: What Lies Ahead?" ACC Minnesota Lunch and Learn, December 16, 2020

Presenter, "Eliminating Implicit Bias from Investigations and Disciplinary Decision-Making," Upper Midwest Employment Law Institute, September 16, 2020

Speaker, "Contingent Workers and COVID-19: A Crossroads," Ballard Spahr webinar, May 6, 2020

"HR considerations in connection with COVID-19, legal requirements, options," Exit Planning Institute, webinar, March 27, 2020

"Workplace Equity State & Federal Trends," webinar, February 11, 2020

2020 EPLI Conference, New York, January 29-30, 2020

"Eliminating Implicit Bias from Investigations, Decision-Making," October 2019

"Prevention Is Key - Staying out of Legal Trouble - Key Strategies to Avoid General and Employment-Related Litigation Claims, as well as Corporate and Transactional Tips to Keep Your Company Ahead of the Curve," 2019 South Dakota Manufacturers' Day Summit, September 2019

"Minnesota's New Wage Statute - Employers Take Heed," Ballard Spahr webinar, August 8, 2019

"A Lifecycle of Faculty FMLA, ADA, and Workers' Compensation Claims," NACUA CLE Workshop, April 2019

"Employment Law and Legislation Update,"SEMHRA event, January 10, 2019

"Moving Beyond #MeToo: Harassment, Discrimination and Pay Equity in the Manufacturing Workplace," The Evolving Manufacturing Industry: Legal Developments, Challenges, and Opportunities, Ballard Spahr webinar, October 2018

"Employment Law Year in Review" and "How #MeToo and Pay Equity News is Changing the Legal Landscape for Employers," Minneapolis Fall Employment Law Seminar, Ballard Spahr event, October 2018 

"Labor and Employment Law Year in Review," Ballard Spahr CLE, February 2018

"2017 Labor and Employment Law Updates," Southwest Metro HR Association, November 2017

2017 Employment Law Seminar: "A Time of Change," Complimentary Seminar, October, 2017

"ADA Website Compliance and Whistleblower Issues," Lindquist & Vennum Card Issuer Workshop, September, 2017

"Keeping Up With Employment Legislation," Southwest Metro HR Association, March, 2016

"Medical Marijuana in the MN Workplace," Southwest Metro HR Association, March, 2015

"Keeping Up With Employment Legislation," Southwest Metro HR Association, May, 2014

"Essentials of Job Analysis and Job Descriptions," Southwest Metro HR Association, April, 2013

"Social Media and the Law: Where Generations Meet," April, 2013

"Emerging Legal Issues Related to Employee Internet and Social Media Use," Southwest Metro HR Association, April, 2012

"Cyber Law 101: Get Your Head out of the Cloud(s)," Southwest Metro Human Resources Association, April, 2012

"CHARGE BACK! Strategies for Effectively Responding to a Charge of Discrimination," May, 2011

"Temps and Contractors: Reducing Legal Risks and Avoiding "Co-Employment" Relationships," Southwest Metro HR Association, January, 2011

"Get Smart: Gaining Control Over the Actions of Departing Employees," Southwest Metro HR Association, January, 2010

University of Notre Dame (J.D.)

Concannon Programme of International Law, London, England

College of St. Benedict (B.A., magna cum laude)


U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota