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The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Ongoing employment discrimination litigation between the University of Minnesota and a former golf coach is now focused on a cellphone. Former women’s associate golf instructor Kathryn Brenny sued the university, claiming that golf director John Harris stripped her of her duties once he discovered she is a lesbian.

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What can employers do when em­­ployees insist on clocking out and continuing to work? Warn them—and then discipline them. If you terminate employees for refusing to listen, they won’t be eligible for un­­em­­ployment compensation and you will also protect your company from an overtime lawsuit.

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Here’s something to consider before you reflexively terminate an employee who walks out. If she’s so distraught that she’s shaking, crying and hysterical, she may need FMLA leave. Instead of terminating her, let her know she should request FMLA leave.

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The Minnesota Parental Leave Act provides up to six weeks of leave for childbirth and recovery or adoption. Employees who take leave are entitled to reinstatement. It also includes a provision for extending parental leave, stating that leave “may not exceed six weeks, unless agreed to by the employer.” Until now, it remained up in the air what should happen to the reinstatement right if the employer agreed to a longer leave.

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When an employee works in a demanding position and has a medical crisis, he may not be able to return quickly to his old job. It’s en­­tirely possible he may use all available FMLA leave and other accrued leave and still receive clearance to work. That doesn’t mean his employer isn’t obligated to try to reasonably accommodate him.

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The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently gave employers some certainty regarding the state’s Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act. But that certainty is a double-edged sword.

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Workers receiving unemployment benefits are encouraged to take available positions even if it looks like the job may be unsuitable. As incentive, taking the job and then quitting within 30 days won’t bar continued benefits. The date that counts isn’t the last day worked, but the day the worker gave notice.

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Employees have a limited window in which to file discrimination complaints and related lawsuits. Miss the deadline and the case is over. That’s why it’s important to document all employment decisions—even trivial ones—with a note and a date for the record.

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Many employers assume that the National Labor Relations Ac, enacted over 70 years ago, applies only to unionized workplaces and employees who belong to unions. Not true. In fact, the NLRA covers almost all employees and private employers.

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Before you jump on the independent contractor bandwagon, remember that when challenged, many such arrangements fail to meet legal tests. The more control you assert over so-called independent contractors, the more likely a court will call them employees.

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