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The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

You may be tempting fate—and a Fair Labor Standards Act class-action lawsuit—if you demand so much productivity from employees that they can’t reasonably get everything done within the time you allow. The problem: Employees may feel compelled to work off the clock.

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Rodd Wagner has written best-selling books telling employers how to treat their employees more ethically. That didn’t prevent him from being fired from his job as a management consultant at Gallup, Inc.

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When the Castle Rock Supper Club in Hawley was accused of illegally employing teenagers, the owners tried to persuade state regulators that it was OK because their establishment is “not a drinking man’s bar” but “more of a family restaurant.” The regulators were unmoved …

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The Minneapolis Fire Department isn’t adequately staffed and can’t cover the costs of “increasing sick-time usage, injury rates and overtime,” according to a report by a public safety consulting firm the city hired to analyze persistent staffing woes.

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People living in the United States are protected from state actions that violate the Constitution, a right that goes beyond those accorded to employees under Title VII.

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Punitive damages can take a case that’s worth just a few thousand dollars and send the tab skyrocketing. Fortunately, courts want to see clear evidence that the employer acted recklessly before they ask juries if punitive damages are appropriate.

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A discrimination lawsuit compares what happened to the complaining employee with what happened to others outside his protected class. Details matter. For example, an isolated instance of rude behavior is one thing, but constant rudeness is something else entirely. It can justify different, more severe punishment.

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Some employees assume that complaining about harassment or discrimination will protect them from being disciplined. They may have heard or read that the fear of a retaliation lawsuit will make employers so gun-shy that they won’t crack down on misbehavior. Don’t let employees handcuff you like that.

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When a St. Paul construction company hired members of the Crookston High School hockey team in 2010 to install drain pipes under the ice rinks at the Crookston Sports Center, it probably seemed like a great community project. In fact, Arena Systems committed the employment law equivalent of three coincidental major penalties.

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A court has decided employees can sue employers for national-origin discrimination based on an unexpected characteristic: the employee’s tribal affiliation. National-origin discrimination lawsuits are usually based on being from a particular country, but belonging to a specific tribe can count, too.

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