Kevin Kasten said he was cooking at his restaurant, Portage Cafe, on Tuesday morning when his lawyer called him to say he had won his case against Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics.
The case had been argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in October. Kasten knew a decision would come soon, he said, and he had been checking the court's website multiple times a day to look for a decision.
"I was cooking on the grill. My phone rang, and I recognized the number as being my lawyer," Kasten said.
Kasten said he couldn't break away to answer his cell phone. But then the phone rang again. And again. At one point, his attorney, James Kaster of the Nichols Kaster law firm in Minneapolis, called Portage Cafe directly.
Kasten said he went to the court's website first - and saw a link to a decision in his case.
"I didn't click on it," he said; after witnessing oral arguments in the case Oct. 13 in Washington, D.C., he had left discouraged, he said. Two justices had questioned an important claim in his case, that speaking to a supervisor about working conditions amounted to "filing a complaint" even if the complaint wasn't in writing.
In the arguments, Justice Samuel Alito asked Kaster whether he, Kaster, was "filing his comments" before the court by speaking.
Kaster said he was, and Justice Antonin Scalia said that was absurd.
"Now, come on, people don't talk like that," Scalia said at the time.
Kasten said Tuesday that Scalia's remarks were uncalled for.
The experience left Kasten less than eager to read the court's decision. Instead, he called Kaster.
"I called my lawyer back, and the first words out of his mouth were, ‘Kevin, we won,'" he said.
Kasten said he was overwhelmed.
"I took the rest of the day off to celebrate and gather my thoughts," he said. "I've had goose bumps. ... I pulled up my sleeves, and I showed my server."
Kasten, 29, said he enjoyed working at Saint-Gobain in Portage while he was there and that at one point he had told his wife he could see himself working for a long time at the company. Losing his job after complaining about working conditions hurt, he said. After Saint-Gobain fired him, he took another local job and then was given a chance to buy Portage Cafe. He now owns it and KK Snow Removal, and he said he has recently become a co-owner of Wood Stone Pizza Company's frozen pizza business. He was born and raised in Portage, he said.
"My plate's full," he said. "I've got to be doing something, always. I never know what life's going to throw at me."
On Tuesday, he was taking in the emotions of a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court.
"I stood up for my beliefs ... as did Saint-Gobain," Kasten said. "They felt one way. I felt another."
About 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, he said he still hadn't clicked on the link to read the court's decision.
"This has been going on since '06. This has been going on for five years," Kasten said of the case. "It's done."