The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Employees can sometimes quit and sue for constructive discharge if their employer made work life intolerable. That doesn’t mean an employee can quit anytime she faces a difficult situation. She has to let her employer try to resolve the problem first.

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Most employers think that if they just tell employees not to work more hours than their regular schedules call for, that’s the end of it. They put together a policy prohibiting off-the-clock work and figure, “Hey, problem solved.” But that may not be the case.

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Managers and supervisors are often classified as exempt from overtime under the FLSA’s executive exemption. It requires that the employee have the authority to hire and fire or make hiring and firing recommendations that carry particular weight. Some employers believe they can meet this requirement by asking for recommendations or insight into potential hires. That’s not enough.

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A messy termination doesn’t have to mean losing a subsequent lawsuit. Just be proactive, figure out what happened and document the underlying discharge reasons. They’re probably in plain sight, despite the drama.

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Q. One of our employees came in two hours late today, without an advance call. When he got here, he told his supervisor that he needed “school leave” for the morning. Can we discipline him for being late?

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Former Pine Island Administrator Abraham Algadi has filed a complaint with the state Department of Human Rights, arguing that the town created a hostile work environment for him in the months leading up to his termination. Algadi alleges he suffered discrimination because of his Jordanian heritage.

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Q. We have a bunch of employees who telework. One manager wants to follow the approach Yahoo took last year and eliminate teleworking. He believes that employees are not actually working and that their inability to see the whites of each other’s eyes is limiting their collaboration. He’s made some comments in the past that make me think he really worries that female employees are spending work time caring for their children from home. What should we do?

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Following reports of numerous Minnesota nurses continuing to practice despite failing to abide by the state’s substance abuse diversion requirements, State Rep. Tina Liebling has introduced legislation to require regulators to suspend noncompliant nurses.

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Q. We have a manager who is really concerned about “fit” when we interview for his group. He wants to ask questions about hobbies, whether the candidate has a family and how that will affect the candidate’s ability to be at work. I’ve tried to explain that, due to discrimination laws, we should only ask questions based upon the job and its requirements, but he ignores me. What can I do?

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How your handbook reads is critical when you want to contest unemployment benefits for a former employee who was terminated for misconduct. Document that the em­­ployee received the handbook. Track any warnings that led up to the firing.

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