The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Q. Our company has a leave-of-absence policy that states that any employee on leave longer than 12 months will be terminated. Our company’s leadership insists on this policy out of what they call business necessity. Are we opening ourselves up to risk?

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Q. We frequently have employees turn in time sheets with unapproved overtime—time they spend checking emails and voice mails. Do we have to pay em­­­­ployees for this time even though we have a workplace policy that prohibits unapproved overtime work?

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Here’s a tricky situation that requires courage: An employee complains that a senior executive may be sexually harassing a subordinate. The best approach may be to contact your employer’s attorney for advice.

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A court has concluded that em­­ployees looking for promotions or transfers have to make reasonable efforts to apply for a job before they can sue. That’s true even if they were discouraged from applying—unless it was obvious that applying would be futile and therefore ­pointless.

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Using a $3 million federal grant, the Minnesota Department of Human Services will implement new practices for running background checks on employees who work with children and vulnerable adults. The new procedures will begin in January, implementing new fingerprinting and photographing legislation Gov. Mark Dayton signed in May.

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Having employees out on FMLA leave is a hassle. But even worse trouble is certain if bosses make a big deal out of routine FMLA leave re­­quests.

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In employment law, the adage that two wrongs don’t make a right is true. Don’t make the mistake an em­­ployer recently made when a super­­visor apparently favored members of his religion in hiring. It terminated them without providing a legitimate, performance-related reason.

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Employers sometimes think it’s too dangerous to fire a worker who has recently returned from FMLA leave. But don’t let fear of a lawsuit keep you from making a reasonable and necessary business decision. Just make sure the employee’s use of FMLA leave didn’t motivate the discharge.

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Under Minnesota’s workers’ compensation laws, employees who file workers’ comp claims are protected from retaliation. The law says employers can’t punish employees for seeking benefits. But some employers have been trying to preempt so-called protected activity when an em­­ployee is injured at work.

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You can’t prevent every lawsuit over a discharge, but you can be prepared. That preparation includes making sure you can point to solid, performance-based reasons for every termination. Lay the groundwork first with a performance improvement plan (PIP) and you will be well on your way to showing the court your decision was based on objective, measurable business reasons rather than some kind of prejudice or discrimination.

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