The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Publicly calling an innocent person a criminal can lead to a defamation lawsuit. But what if, during court proceedings, you call a lawsuit a form of blackmail? Is that defamation?

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Do you automatically terminate employees who aren’t ready to return to work after using up all available FMLA and short-term disability leave? If so, you may be asking for an ADA refusal-to-accommodate lawsuit. The better approach: Determine if reasonable accommodations might help the employee return to work despite lingering problems.

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If your business delivers food and adds a small delivery charge, make extra sure customers understand the fee is not a gratuity.

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The Minnesota Senate has approved a measure that would prohibit most private employers from asking job applicants about past criminal convictions until they have been interviewed or made a conditional job offer.

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Many of the police officers, firefighters and paramedics in Minne­­sota municipalities are members of the military reserves and National Guard. When those workers are de­­ployed for military service, towns and cities often have to pay overtime to remaining first responders. A bill before the state Legislature would provide state funds to municipalities to cover those additional costs.

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Here’s an important reminder when management gets nervous about terminating a so-called whistle-blower. Solid, legitimate reasons for discipline take precedence over protections to which whistle-blowers are entitled.

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Under the FMLA regulations, if an employee is incapacitated, someone else can notify the employer, whose FMLA obligations are then triggered. But that doesn’t mean that a co-worker merely telling a supervisor that the employee is “sick” works as notification. Employers are entitled to better notice than that.

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If you place an older worker who has complained about age discrimination on a performance improvement plan  that is essentially impossible to complete, watch out! You’re setting yourself up to pay out huge punitive damages—even if the employee winds up winning just a modest retaliation verdict.

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Unions represent an ever-shrinking slice of U.S. employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only 11.3% of workers were unionized in 2012, down from 11.8% in 2011. In 1981, 20.1% of American workers belonged to a union. Several factors have contributed to the decline.

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No one wants to have to explain why an employee just lost her job. But passing the buck and coming up with inconsistent excuses are the worst possible approaches. Instead, make sure the information comes from one source—preferably HR—and stick with a defensible reason.

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