The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

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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Shannon Miller is one of the most successful coaches in NCAA women’s hockey history, but the University of Minnesota-Duluth concluded she and her all female coaching staff were a luxury it could no longer afford. Citing budgetary reasons, UM-D announced it would not renew their contracts.

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The FMLA is supposed to protect employees from losing their jobs when they can’t work due to a serious health condition. Minor maladies such as colds, headaches and body aches usually aren’t enough to merit protected leave. That’s true even if the employee goes to a doctor and gets a prescription, unless the health care provider also tells the worker to return within 30 days for a follow up or otherwise actively monitors the illness.

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Target, the country’s third largest retailer, has announced it will cut 1,400 jobs from its Twin Cities’ headquarters. Falling sales, losses from an unsuccessful expansion into Canada and last year’s massive data breach have been cited as reasons for the downsizing.

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Be sure your job announcements list minimum qualifications applicants must have. That way, if someone who lacks the right background sues, the case can quickly be dismissed.

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Employees who are forced to work under conditions that leave them little choice but to quit can still sue, alleging they were constructively discharged. You can prevent those suits by transferring the employee who says he is being harassed to another equivalent job.

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Government workers have more protections than other employees when it comes to termination. For example, if a public employee is falsely charged with some form of misconduct, she may have a l­awsuit. By all means, resist the temptation to make an example out of the fired employee.

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Before rejecting a disabled employee’s request for additional time off as a reasonable accommodation, consider whether the time would allow the employee to return. If not, you probably won’t have to provide the additional leave.

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Remind supervisors that when it comes to age discrimination, what they say matters. They should never comment directly on age, and should avoid references to “generational differences” or anything else that might be construed as code for age discrimination.

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A supervisor’s single threat leading to a salary deduction could cost your company millions.

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