The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

A federal court in Minnesota has invoked Texas law to rewrite a noncompete agreement that it decided was too broad.

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Employees who don’t call off work as company rules require may be guilty of misconduct. That means they lose the right to unemployment compensation if they are fired.

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Workers whose employers make it unbearable to come to work are still eligible for unemployment compensation. That’s called constructive discharge. But what about an employee who files an EEOC complaint alleging unbearable working conditions and then settles the case for a lump-sum payment in exchange for resigning? According to a recent Minnesota decision, that’s a voluntary resignation, blocking benefits.

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Before you hire employees from the competition, make sure they don’t have an existing noncompete agreement. When in doubt, consult an attorney.

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Employers that take their time to discipline troublesome employees who refuse to follow the rules often make out well if that employee later sues. That’s because they will have clear and unambiguous evidence that the employee deserved the discipline—not because he was a troublemaker, but because he couldn’t follow the rules others did.

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Workers who are collecting unemployment compensation benefits and “perform services” for 32 hours or more per week aren’t eligible to receive benefits for that week. If they work for fewer than 32 hours, they do receive benefits. But what about time spent on-call? Do those hours count toward the threshold? A recent court decision says they don’t.

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On July 1, 2015, medical cannabis became lawfully available under Minnesota’s Medical Marijuana Law (MML). The MML’s employment protections are more extensive than those offered in any other state legalizing medical marijuana use. Legal compliance will be challenging, making it important for employers to know what constitutes protected use and to understand the MML’s effect on testing programs and substance abuse rules.

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Q. We have an employee who regularly comes into work a half-hour or more before her scheduled shift in order to get her work station ready and otherwise get herself set up for the day. This preparation time is important to the employee because she does not believe that she can meet the production requirements of her job without it. The employee has been told that she cannot start performing her actual job tasks until the start of her scheduled shift. Our new HR manager has advised that we must pay the employee for the time that she spends preparing for her shift, even though she had no approval to work during that time. Is that right?

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Q. We have operations in South Dakota, and one of our employees there has requested FMLA leave to care for his same-sex spouse for an FMLA-qualified reason. The couple was married in Minnesota, but South Dakota does not recognize same-sex marriage. Should we grant the FMLA leave request?

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Q. We have a server at one of our restaurants who has open sores on her face. She claims she can’t get a bandage to stick to her chin, leaving the sore uncovered. As a result, we have received a few customer complaints. May we remove the server from her shifts so that we do not lose business?

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