The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

The highly publicized battle for the leadership of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis offers lessons for all employers with unionized workforces.

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Q. An employee who is off on an approved FMLA leave just submitted her resignation, providing two weeks’ notice. Our employee handbook asks employees to provide a two-week notice when possible. May we terminate the employee’s employment immediately rather than wait two weeks?

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In her second State of the City address, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges called for more regular work schedules, more overtime pay and greater access to paid sick days.

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Q. An employee with epilepsy wants to bring a dog to work to assist her in the event of a seizure. Our business is not conducive to having animals at work. Must we permit her to bring her dog?

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Recent changes to the Minnesota Whistleblower Act and the way in which Minnesota courts interpret it should put employers on watch. Late last year, the Minnesota Court of Appeals extended the statute of limitations for MWA claims from two to six years. The ruling comes on the heels of 2013 amendments to the MWA, which, plaintiffs argue, expand the scope of the statute’s coverage.

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With technological advances, just about every job involves using computers or computerized machinery. That doesn’t mean an employee whose job it is to repair such equipment is an exempt computer professional. Fixing things like printers and copiers—even the most technologically advanced ones—is hourly work, making the employee eligible for overtime.

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It’s considered protected activity when employees complain about harassment based on ethnicity or other protected characteristics such as sex, race or religion. That means employers can’t retaliate against employees for having filed a harassment complaint. Now a court has clarified the obvious: Promoting an employee isn’t retaliation.

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Employers must follow strict rules if they want to rectify misclassification of employees and make up their unpaid overtime. Don’t expect to just cut them a check and put a note on the paystub.

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Do you worry that starting accommodations for a disabled employee may mean you have to continue them indefinitely? Relax. In fact, a trial accommodation may actually benefit employers in the long run. If the accommodation turns out to be disruptive, impractical or more costly than you thought it would be, you can stop it.

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The union representing workers at the Minnesota Department of Human Services mental hospital in St. Peter has criticized staffing levels after a patient committed suicide by hanging himself. Part of the union’s evidence of understaffing: Patients had to help employees cut down the man’s body.

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